When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
* * * * * * * * *
Jesus asks his disciples two very important questions in today’s gospel. Both of these questions go to the very heart of their relationship with him, and their understanding of who he is in their lives.
“Who do people say that I am?” he first asks. On the surface, he seems to be asking them what other people think about him. In essence though, the question was really directed to the disciples whom he had in fact sent earlier on to preach the message he gave them. What he really meant to ask the disciples was therefore: “What have others come to believe about me, on account of your witnessing to my message?”
Our relationship with Christ is always measured by how much others who come in contact with us, learn about Jesus himself. Our way of thinking, speaking, and acting always serve as a means by which others learn who Christ is. A disciples’ life is always meant to be a reflection of Christ.
But Jesus asks a second question: “Who do you say that I am?” There is no surface reading to this question. It goes right away to the heart of the disciples’ relationship with him. While they were given a task to preach the gospel, that task would only be meaningful, if they themselves knew Jesus in the most personal and profound way. Only those who know Christ well can truly bear witness to him.
In our case too, our witnessing with Christ will only be genuine and meaningful, if we have a personal relationship with him, if we know him in a deep and personal way. What we know about Jesus, and how well we know him, eventually lead to what others know about him through us.