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Sermon by Rev. Mark Covington, Pastor
First United Methodist Church
Quitman, Mississippi
February 19, 2012
(Transfiguration Sunday)

Topic: “Who Do You Say That I Am?”

Scripture Reading: Luke 9:18-20 (NRS Version)

18. Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
19. They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.”
20. He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah {Or [The Christ]} of God.”

Jesus is at a crucial point in his ministry. He has been active in his ministry for around 2 ½ to three years. His conflict with the Jewish authorities has been escalating. His relationship with his disciples continues to mature. But time is growing short, Passover is coming. There is something that Jesus has to know. The outcome will determine what he does next.

If he asks the disciples and they cannot answer him, or answer him wrong, then he has a problem. If they answer correctly then he knows that the path he is on is O.K.

Matthew and Mark report that Jesus was in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi. Luke says simply that Jesus was praying alone. Jesus asks a question, not the question he must have an answer to, but one that draws the disciples into conversation and gets them thinking about the real question.

Jesus asks them, “Who do people say that I am? Their replies are predictable. “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” These are all good answers. Any one of those would have been who most Jewish scholars would have chosen. The problem was that they were all wrong answers.

Then Jesus asks the real question, the question that he must have an answer to immediately. “But who do YOU say that I AM?”

Let’s imagine for a moment that the disciples replied to this answer as they did the first, “John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

I am not sure what Jesus would have done. I am not sure how this would have changed what happens in the short term. You see, that question is crucial, at that time and place for Jesus to have answered.

Of course, that was not the answer Jesus got.

It was Peter, who I think in this instance as in many others, who answers for all of them. Being something of a spokesman for the others, he replies, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”

So now Jesus knew. At least these twelve had a basic understanding of who he was and who he was from. This answer was not just the result of a surface knowledge but demonstrated a much deeper understanding of the true nature of Jesus.

So, what happens next and what does this mean?

It means that the message that Jesus brought about God was safe. It means that they understood and could verbalize that message. This allowed Jesus to pursue the destiny that awaited him in Jerusalem.

From here Jesus goes to the Mount of Transfiguration. He takes Peter, James, and John with him and he is transfigured before their eyes. When the four of them return from atop the mountain Jesus tells them of the fate that awaits him in Jerusalem. Then he turns his face toward that city where Passover awaits, where the sacrificial lamb will once again be offered as a means of salvation for the people of God.

Matthew 16:21-23:
21. From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
22. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”
23. But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

All this hinged on the answer to a seemingly simple question. From this time until his arrest Jesus packs in all he can. By my count our Bibles recount 57 parables with 23 of them coming after the transfiguration and before His arrest. He performed 34 miracles with 8 or 9 coming in that time. In addition Jesus preaches many times and teaches the disciples and the crowds many more times.

Jesus sends the 70 out, preaches on the living waters, dismisses the woman caught in adultery, and is almost stoned to death.

So Jesus was busy during this time period, all because he got the right answer.

But those are days past and history gone. There is an saying, “but what have you done for me lately?” Jesus still asks those same questions today.

And he still the question, “Who do you say that I am?” He is still looking for people who can give the correct answer; people who understand; people who can verbalize the answer and live that answer out in their lives.

Jesus asks you today, “Who do you say that I am?”

Jesus still needs people who understand. People who can answer correctly so he knows that his message is safe and his mission is intact.

Jesus asks you today, “Who do you say that I am?”

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