Matthew 8:23-27. Jesus Calms the Sea: Jesus and His disciples board a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. One of the Sea’s infamous squalls kicks up while Jesus is sleeping in the boat. The disciples wake Him in a panic questioning if He is going to let them perish in the storm. Jesus rebukes the wind and settles the raging water which causes the disciples to ask, “What kind of man is this that even the wind and sea obey Him?”
Matthew 14:13-21. The Feeding of the 5,000: Many people are now following Jesus but His opponents are also growing in number. Jesus tries to withdraw from the public spotlight but the crowds find Him. At the close of the day only a small amount of food is available. The disciples advise Jesus to send the crowd away, but instead, Jesus blesses the food and has it distributed. The supply multiplies beyond what is humanly possible. The event must have caused many to ask, “Who else but God could do this?”
Matthew 16:13-28. Peter's Confession and Jesus' Teachings on the Cost of Discipleship: Jesus and the disciples have retreated to a quiet place to pray. Jesus asks the disciples about the crowd's opinion of Him. They say the people perceive Him to be a prophet like Elijah or John the Baptist. Jesus then asks the disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter speaks for the 12 and states they believe Jesus is the "Anointed of God" (Messiah). Jesus recognizes the truth of this confession but admonishes His disciples not to reveal His identity at that time. He affirms that Peter and the disciples will continue the proclamation of the Good News in spite of the opposition they will face. He continues to warn them of the suffering both He and His disciples will encounter as they proclaim the Good News. The cost of discipleship is high, but its rewards are even greater. Whether or not you will accept the cost of discipleship depends on how you answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”
Matthew 17:1-13. The Transfiguration: Jesus takes Peter, John and James to a quiet mountain to pray. During this time these disciples are introduced to a side of Jesus they have never seen before. Elijah and Moses also make an appearance prompting Peter to offer temporary housing for the trio. God the Father affirms Peter's confession in Matthew 16 by instructing the disciples to listen to "My Beloved Son" in a scene reminiscent of Jesus' baptism (Mt. 3:13-17). The Transfiguration occurs after Peter's confession and the teaching on discipleship which demonstrates that Jesus is God and His glory far surpasses any earthly suffering. Many people like to label Jesus as a great teacher, but that is only partially true. He was not a misguided revolutionary either as some like to speculate in order to avoid some of the challenges He spoke concerning sin and personal accountability for it. The Transfiguration proves that Jesus was more then that; more than a mere mortal and that He has every right to make the demands of His disciples that He does.
The question of Jesus' identity is central to all the Gospels and to those who want to be His disciples. It is similar in principle to the idea of an interpreter. You wouldn't hire an interpreter who didn't know the language you wished to communicate in. In the same way, you would not want to be the disciple of someone who was delusional or an all-out liar. If you are to respond in faith, you must believe in something or someone who is completely trust-worthy. When you read through the Gospel of Matthew (as well as Mark, Luke and John), watch for the ways Matthew authenticates Jesus' claims and proves them to be true.
Discipleship, however, is more than a mental assent that Jesus is Who He claims to be. If that were so, then centuries worth of creeds and faith statements, but even more importantly Jesus’ own words, would not have turned the world on its heels. Discipleship is a total lifestyle change and commitment. It is reshaping the way we look at the world and interact with it. It reorients our priorities, thoughts and actions. And so, just as Jesus questioned the 12, He asks us today as well, "Who do you say that I am?" (Mt. 16:15) How we live as His disciples answers that question every day.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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