In my life there are a lot of different roles that a lot of different people play. Even as an adult the necessary support that I need to successfully navigate each day is staggering. Obviously I’m not referring to simply existing here, but I’m talking about approaching life with the kind of passionate vigor that would make William Wallace proud. My wife offers an answer to the questions of relational need, intimacy, and humility that implicitly arise in my life. My children are constant reminders to me of responsibility, selflessness, and they help me to continually be aware of the reality of innocent joy. I have friends that span the spectrum of spiritual, political, social, and emotional ideologies. Some of them are sounding boards, some of them offer different perspectives on life than I could ever bring to the table, some of them make me laugh. My employer and co-workers provide yet another dimension to life as I am daily confronted with my need for a place in society as well as the need for currency in order to live with some level of supply and adequacy. The church helps keep me grounded in my place in this world (both helping me to know how important I am, and that I am not more important than anyone else), and offers a unique kind of support through prayer, communion, and the singular category of Christian fellowship that is so important to any kind of Christian growth.
All of these people and institutions, organizations and organisms collectively create the sphere of life in which I live. Most of my daily life takes place within the context of the above relationships. And it is that way for all of us. From the first culture until now we find that this is how life works. We can easily begin to see everything as a “part of life”. My family is a “part of life”, my relationships with my friends, the church, my job, etc… are all “parts of life”. It is because of this natural movement to see everything as a “part” of something bigger that the question Jesus poses to Peter, His disciples, and us is so important.
And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”
At some point, whether planned specifically or just when the time was right, Jesus had to ask this question. The danger of this question is in our predisposed tendency to file it with every other question we have about life. But this question is unique. It cannot be relegated to the ranks of common inquiry, and it should not be cleaned up, shined, slathered with preservatives, and then buried for a more convenient time, or life-stage, to answer it. In it’s own unassuming way this question demands not just a yes or no answer, but a life or death commitment.
The reason this question, by this Man, into this life means so much is because the question is two part. Jesus is indeed asking Peter, and us, to make a declaration of who He is, but in doing so we are also making a decision as to who we are. Where we line up with regard to the identity of Christ is inextricably connected to where we line up with regard to our own identity.
“Who am I?”
“You’re Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.”
“So what are you going to do with that?”
It should be clear, with the claim that Jesus makes, and proves, as to His true identity, that when you are asked the question of what you do with God in the flesh, you can’t treat it like you would any other question. I can’t say that the questions of how my boss fits into my life and how the Creator of the universe fits into my life are the same. This doesn’t work, chiefly, because my boss does “fit” into my life, Jesus, on the other hand, is not something the “fits” me but something that explodes me.
The issue becomes clear. I can see all of the pieces of my life, all of the things that, when they come together, make up the “pie” that I call my existence. This is ok. But I cannot ever see Jesus as another “piece of pie”. He neither wants that nor allows it. He isn’t just another thing that contributes to my life, He is the thing that gave me this life to begin with. He predates everything. As Tozer quoted von Hugel, “no matter what you are talking about, God is always previous”. He is the great and eternal Cause from which every “effect” finds its origin. He is indeed the first and the last, but truly we will all be “last” who exist with Him in eternity, we will all have no end, but He stands alone as the sovereign “first”, and no one can ever challenge Him for that position. So you can say any number of things about God, about Jesus, you can attempt to understand Him, to figure out why He did what He did, what His motivations were in His dealings with mankind…all of those things are permissible. But what you cannot do – or what you can only do at the peril of reason, logic, love, and eternity – is to see Jesus Christ standing twenty broad centuries ago in the wilderness of Cesarea- Philippi, bellowing out a question that has echoed through every heart, soul, nation, war, denomination, and government in all of history, and in that moment make the monumental mistake of thinking that He can be reduced to just another “piece of your life”. He stands alone at the moment of Creation. He reigns supreme over the mountain of the Law. He hangs by Himself at the hinge of redemption. And He will not, for any person or ideology make less of Himself than He actually is. He will compassionately look at the one who would try and, with a voice that commanded nature to shut-up and sit down He will whisper, “Get thee behind Me”.
The question stands today as tall and as relevant as it did that day. He looks at me this morning and asks me once again, “Who do you say that I am?” In all of my faults, shortcomings, and meager reasoning abilities, with all of the grand vocabulary and beauty of language at my disposal, the only words that really make any sense in response are, “I’m Yours”.