Today’s Gospel from Matthew is about identity. What is my real identity? What do others think my identity is? These are the questions Jesus is pondering and questioning his disciples about. Peter seems to understand Jesus’ identity…at least for awhile. Peter at least voices a description of Jesus’ identity, but we find out, Peter doesn’t really understand who Jesus is. He knows even less about what understanding Jesus’ identity will eventually mean to him.
As Jesus asks his people who they think he is, he is asking us as well. What do we think Jesus’ identity is? Sure, we can all come up with the words that we have heard and taught who Jesus really is. It is one thing to mouth these sentiments about Jesus’ identity, it is really quite another thing to know the consequences of believing in the identity we claim we know.
Let’s face it, it is difficult to grasp the identity of Jesus as a human being, who is not really present to us in his human form. When we meet people and are around them, coming up with our thoughts and feelings of who people are to us is natural and easier. It does not mean we are always right with our assumptions and beliefs about who other people are, really.
Too often we meet someone or see another, and in five seconds we have already, sized them up, put them in a mental box and feel we know all there is to know about that person. While many of us can be very intuitive and have had experiences where we have been pretty accurate in judging people, it is unfair and often wrong to make such complete and iron clad judgements of people when we know very little about them
We may claim to know Jesus identity and may staunchly believe and even love this Jesus in our minds, whom we really claim to know. But aren’t we all like Peter? Don’t we all get it wrong and are literally following, loving and believing in a Jesus of our own construction that matches more, what we want Jesus to be instead of who he really is.
Believing in a Jesus of our own design, is dangerous and can lead to some pretty weak and inaccurate belief systems. Sometimes who we think Jesus is, is no where near who he really is. We may invoke and proclaim our version of Jesus loudly and enthusiastically, but sadly our imaginary Jesus is a poor substitute and often the complete opposite of who Jesus really is. There are too many examples out there these days of people claiming Jesus’ identity for their own personal views and life styles. There too many Peters who loudly profess who they think Jesus is and are sadly way off in their judgements.
How do we know who Jesus is? The most accurate way is to read ALL the Gospels and not just bits and pieces. It is not difficult to see who Jesus is, what he stands for and what he is staunchly against. Before we claim to know Jesus, I think we better make sure that we do all that we can to learn more about him and understand what he desires. Like Peter, when we blow it and get it wrong, we will be in for a very rude awakening.
Rev. James Kirby