“And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'” Matthew 16:14
Who do we say that Jesus is?
Perhaps we might answer as the crowd did. We might say he is like John the Baptist, or he is like Elijah, or he is like Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.
We might say he is like John the Baptist, that he is a very religious man, that he is a man with a loud and clear message. John the Baptist came calling people to repent, to change their ways. He lived out in the wilderness, dressing in animal skins and living on locusts and wild honey. Crowds of people went out to him, to listen to his preaching and to be baptized in the River Jordan, they wanted to show the world they were prepared to change.
Perhaps we see Jesus in that way, we know that he has something to say, but what he has to say is not for us. In the story of John the Baptist in Saint Matthew Chapter 3, John is for those who wanted to be religious, those who wanted to go out to meet with him. We might feel that we are not like those people, that being religious in such a way is not for us, that we do not feel the need to change and that we certainly do not want to show the world that we want to change. We might feel that if Jesus is like John the Baptist, then we do not want to go out to meet with him.
If we do not see Jesus as like John the Baptist, perhaps, like the crowd, we think of him as being like Elijah, a prophet and a miracle worker who gets into trouble. God works through Elijah to do some amazing things and to speak to the people about their wrongdoing. Speaking the truth gets Elijah into trouble with the rulers of the land and Elijah’s life is in danger. In the First Book of Kings Chapter 19, Elijah is so afraid that God comes to find him – speaking to hi not in an earthquake, wind or fire, but in a still, small voice. God gives Elijah the power to complete his mission and, when the work is completed, takes him to heaven in a chariot of fire.
Do we see Jesus that way? Do we think him a hero from the pages of the Bible, but not someone for us in our own times? Do we think that the stories we read our about people and places long ago and that they are not for us now? Do we prefer to think of Jesus as someone whose mission was completed and who was then taken into heaven and not as someone who is with us hear and now?
The crowd thought Jesus as John the Baptist, or Elijah, or as Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets. Perhaps we see Jesus as like Jeremiah?
Like the story of Jesus, the story of Jeremiah has bleak moments. He lives through the history of Judah over the years before the fall of the kingdom and the destruction of the holy city of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Jeremiah is warned at the beginning that life will not be easy, and it is not. People simply do not wish to listen to Jeremiah, and when things go wrong blame him for the problems, in Jeremiah Chapter 38 Verse 4, the officials complain to the king about Jeremiah, “This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin”.
Do we see Jesus in that way? Do we feel that the Gospel story is one that is about difficulty and hardship? Like the people of Jerusalem, when they thought about Jeremiah, do we think that Jesus might be right, but that we just do not want to hear him. Jeremiah was accused of discouraging people with his prophecies of what was going to happen and we might feel that what Jesus says to us is not easy, that we would prefer not to hear.
Jesus turns to his disciples in Saint Matthew Chapter 16 and says to them, “But who do you say that I am?” and Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
What is Jesus for us? Is he like John the Baptist? Is he like Elijah? Is he like Jeremiah, or one of the prophets? Or, is he, for us, the Messiah, the Son of the living God. If he is, what difference does that make in our lives?