“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.’” (Matthew 16:16)
When Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” they respond with the many speculations they have heard–John the Baptist, Elijah, or even some of the prophets. Once Jesus has their answers, He follows up by asking who they think He is.
Jesus was not any of these figures, and the disciples knew this because they knew Him. When Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?” He is not simply asking them to say, “You are Jesus.” He is asking them to declare the truth: that He is the Son of Man. This is not an easy declaration, because the Jews believed that the Son of Man was God in human form, as is described in Daniel 7:13-14. Saying that Jesus was the Son of Man could therefore bring the wrath of the Pharisees.
How do the disciples respond when facing this question? Perhaps some of them are reluctant to say anything, but Simon boldly answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus rewards Simon by likewise stating his identity as Peter, promising, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
As with the disciples, we may ask ourselves how to respond when we are asked who Jesus is. Though cradle Catholics are taught from infancy that Jesus is the Son of God, do we know it in our hearts or is this knowledge simply regurgitated? Can we declare the Lord’s identity with the confidence of Simon Peter?
The disciples followed Jesus, lived with Him, listened to Him teach, witnessed His works, and so their belief was supported by the time they spent with Him. It is important for us to do the same. Even when we come to the Lord in earnest belief, there is so much more we can learn about Him, since He is a person with an identity as specific as any human being. Once we take the time to understand Him, we can go forth saying, “You are the Son of the Living God” and nothing will prevail against Him.
By Kara Pauley