Today’s Word: ‘Mountain’ as in… have you ever noticed that whenever Jesus wants to get clear about who he is and what he’s doing, he goes up on a mountain?
Time and again, Jesus “elevates” the teaching location when he really wants people to elevate their understanding. From the plains around the Sea of Galilee, Jesus takes his band of merry followers and “heads up” to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. It’s an elevation of about 1150 feet, give or take a few, just enough to alert us to the “heads up” moment that is about to happen.
“So, who do people say that I am?” Jesus asks his buddies. Did Jesus not know? Seriously. Is this a mid-course correction? Is this an evaluation? Is this an “If-you’re-going-to-be-my-disciples-then-you-have-to-pass-this-pop-quiz”?
No. Absolutely not.
There’s never a quiz. Never… A… Test…
What it is, I believe, is the first of two important questions that will lead us to seeing more clearly who Jesus is. There’s a good chance that what you believe about all things religious is part of a body of work that was handed to you over the years. This is what I’ve referred to before as The Theological 3×5 Card. This is part of the narrative about religious things that people have shared with us.
Who do people say that Jesus is? Well, Sunday School teachers, VBS leaders, pastors, parents, family, and friends say this about who you are.
But then Jesus turns the question just a bit and gets very personal: “Who do you say that I am?” It’s at this point that Jesus is not asking us to recite the list of popular opinion about him, or regurgitate knowledge of what others people believe. Jesus is inviting us into that deeper, creative, wonder-filled place where we actually explore out loud: “Who on earth are you?”
Peter, brave and robust Peter proclaims: “You are the Messiah!” It’s such a great moment of clarity and insight. But it’s also short-lived. In the next breath, Jesus tells his followers what it all means.
Good thing there up on that mountain.