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Sunday 23 August 2020

Who do you think you are?

Matthew 16:13-20


By Georgina Pinches

Major (retired) Salvation Army

Context: a regular Sunday morning Salvation Army congregation of around fifty worshippers

Aim: to put faith in Jesus as the Son of God

Many of us will be familiar with the television programme ‘Who do you think you are?’ It’s been around for a few years now and the idea has been taken up by several countries. We see well-known people research their backgrounds and ancestors and wait to see what interesting/controversial/criminal relatives surface from their dim and distant past!

At times it can be quite emotional and at other times quite enlightening. It’s amazing what back stories some folk have.

Jesus of course had quite a back story. We know it well. By the time he reached his early thirties most people had heard of him and his story, as from very humble beginnings he had become well known as a healer, preacher and miracle worker. So in Matthew 16:13-20 we don’t see Jesus asking the disciples ‘Who do you think you are?’ but ‘Who do you say that I am?’



It’s an interesting question. We give the disciples a lot of credit for dropping everything and following Jesus, and I think we assume they did so because they actually had an idea about who this ‘Jesus’ person was. However, we really should be beyond asking who Jesus is by this point! And yet, He still asks.

The timing is even more peculiar when you stop to consider how much the disciples had seen Jesus do. He had performed miracle after miracle. Healed the sick. Fed the multitudes. Walked on water. The list goes on. They’d seen all of this. Could there really be any doubt about who Jesus was? And yet, Jesus still asks.

And then there’s the great teaching. Parable after parable. Illustration after illustration. Sermon after sermon. They watched Jesus confound the Pharisees and scribes. They heard Jesus teach about loving our enemies, about how to pray and how to live. Most of us would love to have heard teaching and instruction straight from the mouth of Jesus. The disciples were privileged to have had this experience, both among large groups of people and in the intimacy of their small company of twelve. They lived with the master and teacher, learning from his words and his actions. And yet, Jesus still asks, ‘Who do you say that I am?’

It’s a simple enough question, really – a question the disciples were in a great position to answer. If anyone should have been able to say with certainty who exactly Jesus was, it was these twelve. And yet, none of them respond – that is except Peter.


When Jesus asked what everyone was saying about him, the answers sound similar to the answers we hear today. Things like, ‘He was a great teacher,’ ‘He was a great prophet,’ or ‘He was a good man.’ But Peter’s answer is completely different. ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

Of course, he is! But we need to look at this closely. When Jesus replies to Peter’s claim, he doesn’t tell Peter that he’s judged correctly based on what he’s seen. He doesn’t ask the other disciples what else he needed to do to make who he was clearer. Instead, Jesus replies, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.’

Jesus said nothing about Peter’s personal qualities – his intellect, his reasoning, his powers of observation, his ability to analyse what he’d experienced – that may have led him to conclude Jesus really was the Son of God. Jesus credits God, the Father in heaven, for the revelation.



Well, it means that the revelation about who Jesus is comes spiritually … not mentally, or physically. Or, more simply, it means that Jesus cannot ‘demonstrate’ his way into you believing in him, nor ‘teach’ his way into you believing in him, but essentially it is an act of faith on our part with a response from the Holy Spirit who confirms it to us. Jesus is not just a teacher or prophet but the Son of God, and there comes a time when we must acknowledge that. Christianity is a relationship with Christ and not just a signing-up to a set of rules or ticking a ‘religious’ box.

We are living in a society that hopes to find all truth through verifiable material, logic and reason. But the scriptures here are clear. We cannot find Jesus and the Kingdom of God just by using such means. We must have a divine encounter with God.

It was revealed to Peter. Later it was revealed to the rest of the disciples, and of course it is revealed to us. It just remains for us to respond like Peter and put our faith in Jesus as the incarnate Son of God.

Never mind who you think you are! Interesting though it may be, knowing exactly who Jesus is can be a far more life-changing experience.

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