“But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15b)
How do you define yourself? What makes you you? Are you your heritage or just the sum of all of your experiences? Do you define yourself by your job? Your nationality? Ethnicity? Religion? Hobbies? If someone asked you to define yourself, what would you say? Or is it that others define us? Do we rely on the people in our lives to tell us who we are?
In the Gospel lesson for Pentecost 12, Year A (Matthew 16:13-20), Jesus asks an existential question: Who do people say that I am? He’s really confronting the disciples at this pivotal point in his earthly ministry. Do people get what this is all about? He’s shown them some miracles, performed lots of healings, and fed thousands of people. Now he wants to know if everyone is getting the message. Clearly the Pharisees don’t get it because they still want to see some magic tricks before they’ll commit to recognizing Jesus’ authority (see 16:1-4). But Jesus won’t jump through hoops for them. He wants them to recognize with their own minds what their experience with him means. He wants them to be open to seeing God at work.