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The Question
Matthew 16:13-17
(C) 2001, Don Mize


A story by Antonio Fins, “Enron pipeline plan draws attention from
industry, community,” in the September 2, 2001,
South Florida Sun-
Sentinel
, reported that a federal agency was being bombarded by
requests.  Enron had announced plans to build a ninety mile pipeline
from the Bahamas to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  Conservationists,
public officials, and even others in the industry had questions they
wanted answered.

Questions are a part of life, a part of learning, and a part of change.  
In Matthew 16:13-17, Jesus asked the most important question you
will ever be called upon to answer: who am I?

“Who am I?” The question rings down the ages and bounces off
eardrums too busy to hear.  Eardrums filled with blaring music.  
Eardrums filled with happiness commercials. Eardrums deaf from
much hearing of nothingness.

Identity Matters

Identity matters.  If someone steals your identity, you are in trouble.  

Take the case of Carlos Arturo Jimenez.  In a story written by Susan
Clary for the
Orlando Sentinel on August 31, 2001, she reported
how a convicted felon, Juan Jose Rivera, ended up with name, birth
date, and Social Security number of Jimenez.  The story was titled,
“Someone else’s carelessness can ruin your good name.”  All this
happened because Rivera gave a false name when deputy sheriffs
took him to the hospital to have his stomach pumped for cocaine.

It seems that Carlos Jimenez is a name as common as John Smith.  
Typed into the computer, Carlos Arturo Jimenez’s name, birth date,
and Social Security number came up. The real Jimenez ended up with
the hospital bill and even the criminal record.

Your identity matters, and identity theft is becoming a serious crime.  
Jesus asked an important question when he asked, “Who am I?”  The
question is an eternal question.  He is asking you to decide about his
identity.

It is a shame we are too busy to hear the question.  Not only is his
identity important, but our being able to hear is important.

Being Able to Hear Matters

The importance of being able to hear is highlighted by a story carried
by Reuters on August 31, 2001. According to the story, a deaf man
spent two years in jail after minor charges against him had been
dropped.

All this happened in our nation’s capital of Washington.  Sue Pleming
wrote the story, “Deaf Man Wrongly Jailed for Two Years.”  She
admitted in the article that the man had a serious mental illness, but she
pointed out that was not the reason for the foul up.  The man spent
669 days in a solitary cell in a mental health unit of the city’s jail
because his case file had been sent into storage.

He complained on a number of occasions and tried to tell officials he
should not be there, but they were deaf in their own way.  They
ignored him because he was labeled as mentally ill.  As usual in most
jails and prisons, he was receiving no treatment,.

Being able to hear matters, and deafness occurs for many reasons.  
The jail personnel were deaf in their own way, not being able to hear
the pleadings of a man labeled and properly stored.
:
But still the question of Jesus echoes in hollow hearts, and the
question will be answered if only the answer is “Nothing, nothing at
all.”

The Answer Matters

Jean-Paul Sartre in Being & Nothingness defined human existence as
being characterized by nothingness.  He meant that human beings have
the capacity to negate and rebel. Perhaps he was right.  Without the
possibility of saying no, we would not be free to say yes.  Without the
possibility of rebelling, we would not be free to choose, to affirm, to
love, or to have faith.

Only because you have the freedom to respond, “You are nothing,”
are you free  to say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Who is this Jesus?  He started by asking his disciples, “Who do
others say I am?”  They gave the answers they had heard from others:
“Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or
one of the prophets.”

Today, we may reply that others say you are a good man, a prophet,
a hoax, or the Christ.

Today’s Answers

For example, the Taliban in Afghanistan do not agree with Peter’s
confession of faith: “you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  In
fact, they arrested eight foreign aid workers for attempting to spread
Christianity.

In a Associated Press story of August 31, 2001, Kathy Gannon
reported on the situation. She said that Western diplomats appealed
daily on behalf of the eight foreign aid workers. However, in her story,
“Afghan Relatives Appeal for Help,” she pointed out that native
Afghans had also been arrested and had disappeared.  They faced the
death penalty for converting to Christianity or for attempting to
influence others to convert to Christianity.

Meanwhile, armed members of the radical Islamic Taliban militia have
closed the offices of two more Christian aid organizations.  Freedom
of religion is not tolerated as the Taliban government forces their
interpretation of the Islamic faith on the people of Afghanistan.

Today the question Jesus asked those disciples echoes down the
centuries to you: “But who do you say that I am?”  No one escapes
giving an answer.

Your Answer

Louis Uchitelle wrote a September 3, 2001, story for The New York
Times
, “Notions of the New Economy Hinge on the Pace of
Productivity Growth.”  The story  reported on the meeting of the
annual symposium of Federal Reserve policy makers in the mountain
resort of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  A year before Alan Greenspan
opened the meeting with the confident boast that the strong gains in
worker productivity would continue and thus the expansion of the
economy would continue.

Will computer technology provide the foundation for increased
productivity?  Economic prosperity depends on it.

But even questions that affect your job, your paycheck, your taxes,
or  your retirement are nothing compared to the question Jesus asks:
“Who do you say that I am?”

How Do You Know?

Jesus responded to Simon’s confession of faith by saying, “. . . this
was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven (v.17
NIV).

My prayer is not that you will be persuaded, but that you will
encounter the Living God, that the Father in heaven will reveal to you
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
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