Who Do You Say I Am?
13 Now when Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Human One[a] is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
15 He said, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 Then Jesus replied, “Happy are you, Simon son of Jonah, because no human has shown this to you. Rather my Father who is in heaven has shown you. 18 I tell you that you are Peter.[b] And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it. 19 I’ll give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Anything you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. Anything you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered the disciples not to tell anybody that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20, Common English Bible).
I am a Broyles. I have always been a Broyles. I always will be a Broyles. No matter what I will ever do I will always be the son of Johnnie and Janice Broyles.
At times in my life, not usually for long, but at times, I have wanted to be anything but a Broyles. At other times in my life I had someone specific I wanted to be. At one time, I wanted to be the son of the late Harold Reid, the bass singer for the Statler Brothers. I have said many times, if I could do anything I wanted to do and had to take nothing else into consideration, including talent, I want to be a bass singer in a Gospel quartet. I do sing bass but not in a quartet. Something about a joyful noise with noise being the optimum word.
I could go to the courthouse, go before a judge and legally have my name changed. I could even have my last name changed to Reid. There are, however, two things about that change. First of all, hanging my last name to Reid would not make me any more of a talented bass singer than I am right now. Second, I may have the last name Reid, but I am still a Broyles. Changing my name does not change my genetics. I cannot change the fact that I was born a Broyles, whether I like that or not.
Who am I? I am a guitar player and bass singer who isn’t as good as he would like to be. I am a guy who likes to tie knots in paracord and make things out of it. I am a pastel artist. I am an author of a book. I am a pastor. I have been a teacher. I was a programmer/analyst for a while, a data processing manager, a movie operator, and a sailor.
Who am I? I am the grandfather of six, the father of two, the husband of one, the son of two. Sir Isaac Newton and I shared a grandfather but for me there are several greats in front of grandfather. And, I am pretty sure, but haven’t proven it conclusively, that I am a direct descendant of John Newton, lyricist of “Amazing Grace.” There are also a couple of kings way back there in my family history.
All this is to say, if I go and try to change who I am, I can’t do it. I can change my life, but I cannot change who I am. Even if I were to change my name, all the stuff I just said would remain true about me. At best I could ignore it and deny it, but it all would remain true.
We cannot change who we are. If you look at a picture of me and my father, you probably would not make the mistake of thinking we didn’t belong together. If you look at our oldest son, Wayne with me right there, it is pretty obvious that we are from the same family. Other than height, and my hair and beard are much shorter than his, we look pretty close. Our youngest son Christopher, perhaps you would miss it with him. He is much taller than his brother, who is also taller than me.
If you look at Kaleb, our oldest grandson, you know he is Wayne’s son and my grandson. It is pretty obvious.
None of those things are going to change no matter what I do. It is who I am, and nothing will ever change that.
Nothing can change that because it is who God made me to be.
You have the same issue. We all are, who we are. We can’t be someone else. Even to try, it seems to always catch up with us.
Such is the case of Walter Miller. Miller, the youngest of eight children, says he was in trouble with the law from an early age. He attended a Sam Cooke concert and when Cooke got angry with the behavior of people and walked off stage after his second number, Miller got angry. He was arrested, charged and convicted of disorderly conduct, landing him in the Morrison Training School, a state school for troubled youth. He was a smart kid who watched around himself. He saw how the guards checked beds and took roll call. It wasn’t long before he knew their routine and took advantage of it. That state school was the first place he ever, “broke out of.”
He made his way to New York but maintained contact with group of friends, some bad guys back in his home state of North Carolina. Somehow, the article I read didn’t say how, Walter end back in North Carolina. He ended up with a group that was robbing banks. He found himself in prison.
He vowed to turn his life around and he did but his mother never saw it. She died while Miller was in prison. It had a great impact. Before she died, despite his vow, he still lived on the edge, even in prison, finding creative ways to get into trouble. Afterward, he became the model prisoner. His behavior became so good, he got moved to a minimum-security unit he said was more like camp than prison.
But there was one guard who seemed to have it in for Miller. He kept pushing him, until one day Miller pushed back. Before guards knew there was a problem, Miller grabbed his things, including a set of civilian clothes he had gotten somewhere, leaving nothing behind they could trace, he was gone.
He had a little over $100 in his pocket. He made his way to the Greyhound bus station where he convinced someone to buy him a one-way ticket to New York.
For a month he lived in a fleabag motel on hotdogs. When his money ran out he lived wherever he could find a place.
He had a copy of his birth certificate, scratched out his name and typed in a new one and then copied it so many times you couldn’t tell it was faked.
He convinced someone at the DMV to give him a driver’s license and Bobby Love was born. That was in the late 1970s. Bobby Love got a job at Baptist Hospital in Manhattan. There he met his wife, Cheryl. They were married in 1985.
Fast forward 30 years. Bobby Love is sleeping in one morning. There is a knock on the door. Even though she saw the police outside the door, she said she wasn’t worried. She figured they were only there about her crazy neighbor.
When she opened the door, law enforcement pushed her aside and rushed to the back of the house where they woke Bobby Love, a.k.a. Walter Miller and arrested him.
Cheryl and their four children all said, they had no idea about Love’s past. They only knew him as a hardworking and loving husband and father.
They extradited him to North Carolina. He landed back in prison but served less than a year before receiving an early release in 2016. Since then, he has stayed out of trouble.
Walter Miller tried to be someone he was not. Eventually the past caught up with Bobby Love and he became the man he truly was once again, Bobby Love.
This morning we are beginning a sermon series on our Scripture lesson this morning. This passage will be our lesson over the next several weeks.
In the lesson Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” That really isn’t a hard question to answer. In fact, it’s pretty easy really and the disciples jump right in with, “Some say Moses. Some say Elijah or one of the prophets.” It’s an easy question. If you have listened to people at all, you know what they are saying, and you answer accordingly.
Jesus, however, didn’t let it die there. He asks, “But what about you, who do you say I am?” Do you remember when you were a kid playing the children’s game “Who Am I?” You picked someone and you gave clues as to who you were until someone could get the right answer. You might here, “I was a disciple, I was a fisherman. I was with Jesus throughout his ministry. I was always quick to jump into the middle of things. I ran away after Jesus was arrested. I walked on the water with him. Who Am I?
Of course, we are talking about Simon Peter. Whoever guessed it right then took there turn to try to, while being truthful, stump everyone else.
After the twelve answer that question Jesus drills down a bit deeper and asks a question much more difficult to answer. “What about you. Who do you say I am?”
If I polled the room this morning asking that question, I feel certain that, while I might get a variety of answers, they would likely be faithful to the traditional Christian understanding of the Church. I would probably hear things like “Savior,” “Christ,” “Messiah,” and such. They would be much as Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Much of the time when Peter jumps in like this, he is just flat wrong in his answer, but not this time. And Jesus, for his part, gives a faith response to the answer Peter gave though when he gave it, for another few seconds he wasn’t Peter, but rather Simon.
“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Simon said,
Jesus responded by saying, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven.”
Simon is blessed because he knew who Jesus was, really who Jesus is, and had that answer ready.
If Jesus asked you, “Who Am I?” what would your answer be? If your answer is as I suspect, I think you might hear something like, blessed are you, Brandi, daughter of Bill and Nita. Blessed are you, Cindy daughter of Mearl and Juan. Blessed are you, Richard son of David and Susan. Blessed are you Tom, son of Ray and Linda. Blessed are you Mark, son of Frank and Betty. Blessed are you Susan, daughter of James and Anna Lee. Blessed are you Karen, daughter of . Blessed are you, son or daughter, child of God.
Seeking the Genuine,
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved