Who is Jesus? This question is just as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago when Jesus first asked the question of his disciples at Caesarea Philippi. Is he just another religious figure among many religious figures in our world or is he truly the Christ, the anointed one of God, the Messiah, the Son of God? How we answer that question certainly orients our lives to how we should then live.
Jesus begins his questioning of his disciples by first asking what people in the society of their time were saying about who he was. The answers given by the disciples showed that the people of the time considered Jesus as another religious figure in a long line of religious figures, truly holy men but all men who were sent to prepare the way. Some would say Elijah or one of the prophets and some would say that he was another John the Baptist. The people were impressed with his power and compassion in healing and with the wisdom of his teaching but they were not yet ready to believe him to be the Messiah, the Christ, the one sent by God to fulfill his promise of salvation and restoration.
As a prophet or a great teacher Jesus represented a wisdom figure who gave great advice on how to live one’s life and one would be wise to follow it but there were also other sources of wisdom and one could choose to follow one of those other paths also. The words of Jesus were interesting but they were not necessarily imperative. They offered a way to improve one’s life but not necessarily a call to radical conversion.
Jesus then got a little more personal with the apostles and he asked them a key question, “But who do you say that I am?” Would the apostles just follow along with the popular opinions of the day and take a safe position or were they willing to make a personal confession of belief and go out on a limb in the interest of advancing a greater truth? Peter quickly decides to go “all in” and he professes, “You are the Christ.”
To recognize and profess Jesus as the Christ means that now is the time of salvation. There is no waiting around for another to come, there is no wait and see attitude, there is no hedging of bets, for if Jesus is the Christ then the time of fulfillment has come as Jesus announced. To recognize that the time of salvation is now means that one’s whole life depends on how one responds to this moment of opportunity. It calls for a complete conversion of life and a total commitment to following the way of Jesus the Christ. To believe that Jesus is the Christ is to acknowledge that there is no greater source of authority that can govern our lives. The presence of Jesus the Christ in my personal life is not just one thing to know about me, it is “the thing” to know about me. Everything that I do and decide in my life should be directed toward living out the truth of God’s plan for the salvation of all people in Jesus the Christ. If Jesus is the Christ then he is truly the Way, the Truth and the Life that I must follow.
A country western song makes this observation about our contemporary society:“Plasma TVs are getting bigger and Jesus is getting smaller.” What people are saying about Jesus in our society is certainly getting smaller and smaller. He is just another opinion, another teacher, another mythical figure, an archetype of the good. People are interested in Jesus but they are not committing their lives to his way of truth. For many people he is just someone who makes you feel uncomfortable. Peter professed the true faith of the Church that day at Caesarea Philippi and it continues to remain the guiding truth professed by the Church in unbroken continuity to this day, “You are the Christ.” To belong to the Church means to profess the truth that Jesus is the Christ and to live your life in the light of that truth. Today is the day of salvation, now is the time to live fully in the presence of Christ, now is the opportunity to change our lives and align them fully with Christ, now is the time to deny our selfish nature and to take up the daily cross of Christ, to begin to think as God does, not as others in the world think. Today is the day, now is the time and Jesus is the Christ! No question about it!