Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
We are told in the Gospels that Jesus was born a human person and that he had to grow in wisdom and grace just as all human persons grow. How that was played out in his childhood, youth and young adulthood remains a mystery to us. We pick up the story in the gospels when Jesus is an adult who responded to a specific call to ministry. In that context of ministry we know that Jesus experienced struggles, successes, sorrows and joys. We also know that Jesus had close friends as well as enemies. We know that some of his motives and actions were misunderstood by both groups. It even appears that he had doubts about himself and his mission.
Isn’t Jesus very much like each of us? He had to grow physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. He had to develop his own sense of who he was and had to discern his purpose in life. He lived and ministered with the support of human relationships, some of which changed to lack of support, and even betrayal.
When we read the Synoptic Gospels we find Jesus curious about the perception others have of him. In Mark he asks, “Who do people say that I am?” In Matthew he asks, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And in Luke he asks, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” The perception of the people is that Jesus is possibly John the Baptist come back to life, or that he is Elijah who has returned to earth, or one of the other prophets. Because of these beliefs or perceptions they expected Jesus to act in a certain way, to be like the persons with whom they identified him, and to achieve the same kind of results they achieved.
We then see Jesus asking his closest followers who they think he is. In Mark they believe he is the Messiah but they haven’t yet grasped the whole message that he is also the Son of God. In Matthew he is identified as both the Messiah and the Son of God. And in Luke he is identified as the Messiah of God. These close followers of Jesus also had certain expectations of him because of their beliefs or perceptions. How would you describe who Jesus is for you? What expectations do you have of Jesus for you?
It’s important for us to take the time to ask the same question Jesus asked about ourselves, “Who do you say that I am?” If we are courageous enough, we need to ask that question to our family and our friends. We need to ask it to those with whom we interact. And we need to pay attention to their answers! What is the perception of each of these groups of who you are? What expectations do they have of you? Are they the same as your own self-perception? Are their expectations realistic for you? If you don’t know what others think of you, do you have the courage to ask them?
This one requires radical honesty. It requires time, prayer and reflection. Then you can add a third question, “Who do I want to be?” If there is some discrepancy between who you think you are, and who you want to be, you have some serious work ahead of you. Just know, it’s never too late to transform yourself! In order for conversion, transformation, metanoia, whatever you want to call your desire to change and grow, it is possible!
What are some of your experiences (either positive or negative) that helped you to develop into the person you are today?
Who have been some role models for you? How did they influence you to grow in wholeness and holiness?
We all need continuous transformation in our lives for our growth toward wholeness/holiness. What steps do you need to take?