Jesus and his disciples headed out for the villages around Caesarea Philippi. As they walked, he asked, "Who do the people say I am?" "Some say John the Baptizer," they said. "Others say Elijah. Still others say one of the prophets." He then asked, "And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?" Peter gave the answer: "You are the Christ, the Messiah." (Mark 8:27-29, The Message)
Part II (An imaginary and personal encounter)
by Bob Hayes, Reporter for the OKUMC Press
CAESAREA PHILIPPI, Northern Palestine—In my last report I chronicled the travels of Jesus as he made his way through the tiny village of Bethsaida. Now he is headed for the city of Jerusalem.
All along the way people from the dusty towns press upon him, hoping against hope that he will cure them of their diseases and comfort them in their sorrows. They shout to him. They try to touch his clothing. They clamor for his attention.
And yet, amid the commotion, I realize the people are confused as to who he is. His mistaken identity has obviously hurt Jesus. Just moments ago I got close enough to his core group of disciples to overhear him asking them a question.
Jesus asked them, "Who do the people say I am?" Well, their answers were varied. They responded with "John the Baptizer," "Elijah," or "one of the prophets."
Jesus’ face looked troubled. It was as if he knew that moment might be his only chance to make himself known to those most relying on him.
He abruptly stopped walking and looked at each one with a penetrating stare. I felt as though he was looking right through me, too. Then he opened his mouth and asked a question that shook the core of my being: "Who do you say I am?"
In that one sweeping question he spoke to all of us collectively, yet also individually. "Bob Hayes, who am I?"
That’s when I realized my answer to his question would have eternal consequences. His question could not be evaded. There was no place for me to hide, no side door from which to exit. I knew the answer I gave would determine not only how I lived—but also how I would die.
I thought: Is this man a poetic idealist—a beautiful, sentimental figure, obsolete in a changing world? Is he an inspiring leader for the cause of the poor, or a dear companion for the home and road, or the revealer of an intimate God who cares and loves me?
I had known I would have to answer that question sooner or later. But his probing eyes insisted: Answer the question NOW!
As I tried unsuccessfully to avoid Jesus and put off responding, I felt his soothing embrace upon my shoulders, and in his compassionate and understanding way, he said to me, "This is your chance to get things right. Before we get to Jerusalem, I want you to take advantage of this opportunity to get your life together."
I felt ashamed. He knew better than I did what I had to do to clean up my life. Jesus knew that my answer would be the key to unlock the door to eternal life, or it would be the response that would spell my doom and destruction.
Then Jesus said, "Are you willing to claim me as sovereign in your life? Are you willing to accept me as your Lord, your ruler, your final authority? Will you accept my word as the law of your life? Will you accept my principles as binding upon you? And, lastly, will you accept God’s Kingdom as your final goal and objective?"
I wanted to scream, "Yes!"
But before I could, he added, "Think on these things, for all these questions will bring you back to the main question. Who do you say I am?"
Right then, Peter shouted out, "You are the Messiah!" Jesus smiled and resumed walking.
Word has it that we are headed for the city of Bethany to visit his friends Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. I’m not sure much will happen in that little sleepy town just outside Jerusalem, but I’ll file a report as soon as we arrive.