They were together because of Jesus, this unlikely band of friends. With one invitation, strung together by three little words, Jesus had completely changed the trajectory of their lives. “Come, follow me,” He’d said, and they had (Matthew 4:19 NIV).
The disciples had followed Jesus through the teachings and the feedings and the healings and the storms and the seemingly never-ending challenges from the Pharisees and scribes. They’d followed Him as He taught the crowds in the synagogues and through the countryside. They’d followed Him as He’d left home for the region of the Gadarenes that one time when He’d freed two demon-possessed men. And they’d followed Him back again, where they’d watched a once-paralyzed man rise up, pick up his bed, and go home at Jesus’ command (Matthew 9:6). And here they were, following Him still, when He turned to them and said, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13).
jesus and the crowds
Crowds had begun gathering around Jesus from the beginning of His ministry. We can imagine it didn’t take long before theories about His identity began circulating. Who was this man who taught with authority, healed the sick, and cast out demons? Some said He was John the Baptist come back to life (Matthew 16:14). Others believed He was a prophet, like Elijah or Jeremiah. Others still were satisfied just calling him “Teacher” (Matthew 8:19). But those were the crowds. The disciples were different. They’d given up so much to be with Jesus—successful careers, the comfort of family, social mobility. So maybe they didn’t see it coming when, turning toward them once again, Jesus asked a second question: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).
If Jesus’ question surprised the disciples, it shouldn’t have. It was inevitable. Every relationship comes to a point where it has to be defined. And for Jesus and His disciples, that moment had come. It was time to have the DTR—time to define the relationship.
For those of us who are Christians, we can remember a clear moment in our lives when we defined our relationship with Jesus. For some of us that moment came early on, while sitting at our mother’s or father’s or grandmother’s lap as we learned to pray for the very first time. For others, that moment came on a hot summer night after a week-long adventure at church camp. Others still came to that moment later in life, turning to Jesus only after years of trying to do life on our own terms. No matter when or where or how it happened, whether in a moment or through a process of wrestling, we recognized Jesus for who He is—the very Son of God.
But the thing about relationships is that they’re anything but static. Like everything else in our lives—work, school, family, children—relationships change. They can either deepen and grow or they can become stale and eventually fizzle out. And the truth is, our relationship with Jesus is no exception. Even for us who confess Jesus is God, that confession can be buried under the struggles or circumstances or everyday busyness that comes with the Advent season—yes, even the very season that should be all about Him. So it’s no surprise that, even though we know better, we can find ourselves confessing one thing with our lips but something altogether different with the anxious, fragmented lives we lead day in and day out.
Whether we’ve been Christians for a lifetime or only for a day, Jesus is calling to us as He did to the disciples. It’s time for a DTR.