What is the most important question you've ever been asked?
The apostle Peter faced the most important question of his life in Matthew 16. Jesus had inquired of him and the other disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" (vs. 13). They quickly relayed all the possible reports they had heard: a great prophet, John the Baptist, or perhaps a reincarnate Elijah or Jeremiah (vs. 14).
Then, as now, people were amazed by the life and teaching of Jesus but didn't quite know what to make of Him. Then, as now, there was a plethora of speculation as to His true identity. The world had plenty of opinions concerning the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
But the conversation between Jesus and His disciples didn't end there. He took it a step further.
"But what about you?" He then asked. "Who do you say I am?" (vs. 15).
This was no inquiry of the crowd's opinion, the general consensus, or the majority speculation. This was a personal, individual challenge to the heart of Peter and the disciples: "Who do you say I am?"
That is the most important question Peter and the disciples ever faced, and it is the same question that lies before each and every one of us to this day. Our lives, our souls and our existence hinge on its answer.
There is no denying the massive impact Jesus had on the world. He has arguably had a larger effect on history than any other individual, especially considering that he held no political office and led no army. He is responsible for the most widespread faith on earth, and the best-selling book of all-time. Christian thought and values are what influenced nearly every European culture, including religion, art and philosophy, and the western world is what it is today because of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
Even among other religions like Islam and Buddhism, Jesus is admired. Even among God-hating atheists, the teachings of Jesus are met with respect. He is considered to be everything from a moral teacher to a myth; from a zealot to a socialist; from the brother of Satan to an angel; from the created son of God to God Himself.
Ultimately, what we do with Jesus stems from our answer to that all-important question: who is He?
If He was a myth, then He deserves no more attention than Hercules or Atlas. If He was only a wise moral teacher, then He is no greater than Plato or Aristotle. If He was a created spirit child, then He does not deserve the same worship as God Himself. In each instance, there is no necessary urgency for us to put any stock in Him.
What you do with Jesus depends on who you say He is. Who you say He is will undoubtedly affect what you do with Him.
That's why Jesus didn't leave His identity up for discussion or personal opinion. That's why He got right to the heart of the issue and posed to His disciples the greatest question of all: "Who do you say I am?"
In the response of Simon Peter we find our answer. In the response of Simon Peter we find the beautiful, eternal truth that puts to rest all human argument and speculation. All the books and volumes that have been written, attempting to explain away the person of Jesus, are silenced in the face of that glorious answer given by the apostle Peter:
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (vs. 16).
There it is. Our answer. The answer to the ever-looming question of "who is Jesus?" He was not simply a good teacher, an exaggerated figure from a bedtime story, or even a created angel. He was the Christ, meaning Messiah, the anointed one. The one chosen by God before time began. The begotten Son of God, light of very light, God of very God.
Peter made a theologically massive conclusion. And Jesus answered him by saying, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven" (vs. 17). In other words: Peter's answer was straight from the heart of God Himself.
The person of Jesus is no small matter. We can brush Him off as insignificant, or even slightly significant, and find that we are in no way impacted or inconvenienced. Like those the disciples quoted in verse 14, we can shrug Him off as just another prophet or even shake our fist at Him as a dangerous heretic.
Or we can be like Peter. We can take that question--"Who do you say I am?"--and answer with the revealed wisdom of God Himself. If we recognize Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God, then He is of the utmost importance. If He is truly the way, the truth and the life, then everything we say and do must revolve around Him.
As C.S. Lewis famously said, "Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important." Lewis also said, "You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God."
Just like when Jesus walked the earth, that is the choice every person now faces. It's time to make your choice. Who do you say He is?