When I was in elementary, slumbooks proliferated. Questions like “favorite color,” “favorite movie,” “favorite book,” “most memorable vacation,” “most hated teacher,” abound; even one’s “first kiss” is asked considering that we still have to reach our teen years.
Seeing it from the hindsight, slumnotes allow our young selves to chew, in bitesize portions, the grand question “who are you?”
The Word in other words
Caesarea Philippi was not a Jewish territory. In fact, it was famous for a shrine dedicated to the pagan Greek Pan. It is in this setting that Jesus asks his disciples who the people say that He is. Quickly, varied answers came rushing in: “John the Baptist,” “Elijah,” “Jeremiah,” while others who could not come up with a name to whom they could associate Him simply answered “one of the prophets.”
Jesus was pleased. But He needed to ask another question in order to prove something. This time around the question was tougher, it demands a more personal answer: Who do you say that I am?
There must have been a hush of silence. One disciple elbows another, nudging him to venture an answer. However, they must be expecting someone to speak for the group. Peter, the self-styled leader of the band, attempts a solution: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The laughing stock of the gospel (Matthew 14:22-33) proclaimed two Sundays ago became the hero this time. Jesus was profuse in His praise of Peter. He
does not only lavish compliments on Peter, Jesus appoints him as the leader, the rock on whom He will build the Church.
Who is Jesus?
I realized that thrown to mortals like us, this question ferrets out as many varied answers as possible. The rejoinders we come up with, project the image of Jesus within us: a brother, friend, companion, teacher, savior, redeemer, teacher, master, guide … the list is infinite!
However, some questions do not nag us for answers. At times, we simply have to wonder why they are being asked for they allow us to see the intelligence of the inquirer than to size up the one the question is thrown to.
Questions allow us to peep inside to the innermost core of the one asking, without us being demanded to say something wise and profound; we are perhaps asked to simply listen.
I recall, for one, the question which God asked Adam and Eve after they succumbed the first human couple “Where are you?” Which was not just simply asking for their geographic location, but nags them to reflect about their state vis-a-vis God.
This question of Jesus to Peter falls into that category. It asks us to consider why Jesus–who has cured illnesses, resurrected deceased people, preached the Word mightily–is asking this question.
Who is Jesus for you? With the help of the same Spirit who whispered Peter the profound answer, perhaps we could come up with an acceptable picture of Jesus; or probably, the wisdom to reflect on the question itself so that we could grow further in our understandng of the God of love in the midst of pain, brokenness and sin.