Unpack diverse perceptions of Jesus, explore the profound question of his identity and understand how our response shapes our life's trajectory.
John 7:40-44 — Who Do You Say I Am? — Aneel Aranha
Hello and welcome to the Bite-Sized Gospel with Aneel Aranha. Today we will reflect on John 7:40-44. Listen.
On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
Others said, “He is the Messiah.”
Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.
John often speaks about the diverse responses of people to Jesus, and we see that again on display here. Even when faced with the same teachings and miracles, people arrive at vastly different conclusions.
One group identifies Jesus as "the Prophet," likely referring to the prophet like Moses mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:15. Another group goes a step further, identifying Jesus as the Messiah. A third group, holding tightly to their understanding of the Scriptures, questions how the Messiah could come from Galilee since the Scriptures pointed to Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah (Micah 5:2). They were unaware of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, highlighting the danger of making assumptions without full knowledge.
Who do *you* say Jesus is? One day, Jesus posed the question to his apostles, who had been more intimately associated with him than anybody else. They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:14-16).
People are as confused about Jesus today as they were two thousand years ago, perhaps more so. The range of perspectives on Jesus goes from those who affirm his divinity and messiahship to those who see him merely as a moral teacher, a revolutionary, or even a mythological construct —like a fairy tale. But forget about them. Let us answer Jesus' question: Who do you say I am?
Our answer is pivotal because it will shape not only our understanding of Jesus but also our relationship with him and, consequently, our life's trajectory. This is not merely a question of historical or theological importance but a deeply personal one that demands a response from the depth of our being.
Suppose Jesus is merely a moral teacher or a historical figure to us. In that case, our response might be one of respect or admiration, perhaps adopting some of his teachings while disregarding others that might be inconvenient or challenging. We might appreciate his emphasis on love, forgiveness, and compassion but feel no obligation to embody these virtues in our own lives, especially when it is costly or difficult.
If, however, we say —as Peter did— that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, our response will be one of surrender and allegiance. We will recognize that Jesus is not merely a figure of the past but a living reality, actively involved in our lives and our world today. We will acknowledge his lordship and relinquish every aspect of our lives —our aspirations, our relationships, our resources, our very selves— into his control.
Acknowledging Jesus as Messiah and Lord also invites us into a relationship of intimacy and trust. We will know that we are infinitely loved and valued, that our lives have purpose and meaning, and that we are never alone in our struggles and sorrows. We will experience a peace and joy that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7), knowing that in all things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37).
Furthermore, recognizing Jesus as the Messiah will lead us into a life of discipleship and mission. We will participate in his ongoing work of reconciliation, justice, and love in our broken and hurting world. We will be his hands and feet, embodying his love and grace to those around us, especially the marginalized, the oppressed, and the forgotten.
This is a world filled with pain, injustice, and despair; the only thing that can make a difference is the good news about Jesus. May our lives reflect this good news as we seek to know Jesus and make him known in our world today.
God bless you.