In Matthew 16:13-15, Jesus asked His disciples two seemingly simple questions: Who do the people say that I am? And, who do YOU say that I am?
The first question is really a statement of how Jesus is perceived in culture. In our era, people might say a wise teacher, a long-dead man from history, even a clever politician or a charlatan. In their time, the disciples tossed out a few varying viewpoints they’d heard – maybe John the Baptist? Possibly Elijah? Jeremiah or one of the prophets?
Coincidentally, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who ordered His crucifixion, didn’t think He was any of these things – as JESUS; HIS LIFE depicts. In fact, after others urged him to execute Christ, Pilate talked with Him and concluded, “I find no basis for a charge against this man” (Luke 23:4). Pilate viewed Jesus less as a threat and more as a nuisance. Quite simply, he wanted nothing to do with Jesus; when we say today that we’re “washing our hands” of a problem, it is a direct reference to Pilate’s actions when he finally relented and ordered Jesus to be put to death (Matthew 27.24).
But the second question Jesus asked his disciples - who do YOU say that I am? - has far more personal relevance to them and to us: because it's how we view Jesus that defines our relationship with Him. While Peter got the right answer, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” throughout his life, Peter wavered between the truth and his own agenda.
There’s a little bit of Pilate, and a little bit of Peter, in all of us. Sometimes on a daily basis we can struggle to consistently align what is in our head with what is in our hearts. Like Pilate, it’s easier to cast it aside as a bother. And like Peter, we try hard and we fail harder, which leaves us on a spiral of guilt. But take heart – even in those moments, Jesus never lost faith in Peter, even when Peter’s faith in Jesus wavered. He won’t lose faith in us, either.
Lord Jesus, help me to keep my eyes so focused on You that I only see You as You truly are, and not through the rose-colored glasses of who I want You to be.