When young John Wesley arrived in Savannah in 1735 to be a missionary to the Native Americans, August Spangenberg, a Moravian missionary who had arrived first, greeted him. He immediately asked Wesley, “Do you know Jesus Christ?”
“I know that he is Savior of the world,” replied Wesley.
“True,” answered Spangenberg, “but do you know that he has saved you?”
Jesus poses much the same question to his disciples at Caesarea Philippi: “But who do you say that I am?” (v. 29). Ever since then, theologians, historians, poets, artists, and preachers have tried to answer this question. The question isn’t posed solely to particular professionals, however, but to each of us. Like Wesley, we must learn not merely that Jesus is Savior of the world, but that he has saved each one of us.
In other words, the real question is not who scholars have taught us he is, but who Jesus has revealed himself to be in our own experience with him. That is the question Jesus asks the disciples, and the question he asks us.
We cannot answer it through reason or research or study alone. We cannot go to enough Bible studies or listen to enough sermons to answer it. We can only answer it as we experience the Christ who comes to us through God’s revealing grace. We can only answer it as we walk alongside him.
Peter does just this. He walks alongside Jesus and allows Jesus to walk alongside him. He learns who Jesus is within his own experience, and so he becomes the first to confess: “You are the Messiah” (v. 29). You are the Savior, the Lord of my Life.
It still works the same way. To those who are willing to walk with him, Jesus reveals who he is.
What experience of yours has done the most to reveal to you who Jesus is?
God, help me learn who Jesus is, and help me live by what I learn. Amen.