Resilient | Known

posted by Brenton Banko | Mar 30, 2022

“Who am I?” Each of us grows up with an innate desire for the knowledge to discover who we are and who we might become. The question is simple to ask, but the answer is elusive. It sits in our minds like a word lost at the tip of the tongue. Many nights are spent as a sleepless ode to the question on repeat in our minds. The difficulty of the answer is complicated by the dual nature of the question. It’s a question of identity, but also of purpose. Who am I? What will I do? Who will I become? What is my purpose? The answer, we feel, is the culmination of who we are at the deepest level of ourselves. And that’s why we never ask others the question “who am I?”

To ask someone “who am I?” is to invite them to see you in a deeply personal way. We fear asking the question. We live in a world where social media allows us to curate our lives. We share the good moments and hide the bad. We celebrate our successes and downplay our failures. We post pictures and videos to further build up our brand of who we want people to believe us to be. To ask someone else the question “who am I?” is to invite them to strip away all that we’ve curated. To look past the outward appearance and to see us as we truly are.

But it’s an invitation we don’t freely offer And so, we go back to living a scrapbook life, curated by how we want people to view us instead of who we truly are. Who would ever trust a person with the question “who am I?”

In Matthew 16, Jesus is traveling with his disciples as his journey to the cross will shortly begin. Jesus knows his time is short. He knows that once the journey begins, there will be no way to stop how it ends. He had to know before he set out if anyone had grasped what he had come to do. He had to know if he was just seen or if he was truly known. So, he intentionally brings his disciples to the region of Caesarea Philippi. It would have been a place unlike any the disciples had ever been to. It was a city that, growing up, their parents would have warned them away from. It was a city dedicated to the gods.

If you preferred to worship Greek gods, you were in luck. The city boasted a cave where it was believed Pan, the Greek god of nature, had been born. Within the grotto, there was built a temple to honor Pan and allow his followers to seek refuge from the heat. But, you weren’t just limited to Pan. There also existed a separate temple in the city dedicated to the other Greek gods. And, if those weren’t enough, there were local memorials to fertility gods set up by the local population. But, let’s say you didn’t believe in the gods but worshipped the politics of the times. Caesarea Philippi had you covered. A temple dedicated to Augustus Caesar sat nestled within the city as an option to any who would worship him.

Jesus has brought his disciples to a foreign place. A red-light district of their world. All around them, magnificent marble temples stand imposing the wills of their gods. They stretch to the skies, each vying for the worship of those who would encounter their brilliance. And in the midst of these extravagant monuments to the gods, an average-looking Jewish man looks toward his disciples and asks the question, “who do you say I am?” A hush falls on the disciples’ lips. Tension hangs in the air. But, silence doesn’t get the final word.


Peter speaks up. “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.” Jesus is overjoyed at Peter’s declaration. In a city where the greatness of a god was defined by the size of their temple, Peter is able to discern true divinity in Jesus. Peter has traveled with Jesus, and he has seen him do great things. But, it’s because of his relationship with Jesus that he’s arrived at the correct answer. Jesus is known by his disciples. But, the disciples are also known by Jesus.

“Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’) and upon this rock, I will build my church.” At this moment, Jesus validates who Peter is and gives him a place to belong. He uses a play on words between Peter’s name and who he is becoming. He is not a fisherman. He is a rock. A rock placed on the cornerstone of the knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah. He is the first stone laid upon that foundation upon which other stones will be laid. He has found a place within the church. Not the building. Not the organization. But a gathering of the people of God. And in this declaration, Jesus also gives him purpose. “And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” Peter is entrusted to steward God’s kingdom on Earth and encouraged to steward it well. Later, on the day of Pentecost, Peter would permit Gentiles, non-Jewish people, to come and believe in the God who gave his Son for them as well.

“Who am I?” Regardless of the answers, we may come up with ourselves, we can take comfort in God’s answer towards us: “You are known.”  In Revelation 2:17, as John has his vision, he talks of each person’s journey of faithfully following God. And for those who continue in their faithfulness, at the end of their life, will be given a white stone with a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it. A name that will resonate with the deepest parts of who we are. A name fully encapsulating who we truly are. A name was given to us by a Father who knows us deeper than we can know ourselves.