Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
Before the term was even coined, Peter became the poster child of the phenomenological approach to self-consciousness. The phenomenological approach basically implies that the experience that a person has becomes their reality and is ultimately personal. Whereas this belief or experience can be shared by others it can also be unique to ones self. This is obviously an abbreviated description and does not begin to address the reflective and pre-reflective consciousnesses. Perception is reality.
Peter had a revelation that was unique to him, but at the same time could be shared by others. The reality of those around him was that Jesus was – in their best hypothesis – simply another person whose uniqueness was in fact not unique at all. If something is unique it is unable to be compared to other objects or experiences. Jesus was largely compared to John the Baptist, Elijah, or other prophets. Other prophets who had claimed to be the Christ, other prophets who claimed to be sent by God, other prophets that spoke of a return to authentic Judaism and one-godhood.
Jesus’ compassion was unparalleled, His motivation pure, his goals were beyond human comprehension, and his message was controversial. Still, no matter how many miracles he performed and how many inspiring messages he spoke, he was still thrown into a crowd of singular wearisome pretenders. This is why this particular question carries so much distinction.
Jesus inquired as to the perception others had of him, but what he really wanted was the understanding of those who he spoke to regularly. Who did those closest to him say he was? What was their perception, their reality?
It was on the way that Jesus asked this question. On the way to do ministry. On the way to the villages where people lived. On the way to their homes, to their community, into their lives. He had to know that they didn’t just follow him because he was a good speaker or because others were following him. He had to know that those who followed him did so because the reality they perceived was that he was in fact The Christ, Jesus, Son of the living God, the fulfillment of prophecies of old and promises of the future.
On our way into the lives of the people we encounter, who do we say Jesus is? Is he our provider? Is he our healer? Is he our fortress? Is he our love? Do we show our belief in the lives we live? Do we enlighten others with the experience of Jesus Christ?
It’s an experience that does more than prove what our reality isn’t. It’s a message that shows what reality founded in truth really is.
When we selectively choose to accept the grace He gives, our reality will never be the same – and neither will the reality of those we impact through the message of Christ.