All too often in our lives we are looking for "signs from God" as to what we are supposed to do. More often than not we are so busy looking for signs, external and miraculous signs, that we miss the very presence and power of God in our very midst. Jesus chides the Pharisees because they can read the signs of the weather (red at night sailor's delight, red in morning sailors take warning) but are unable to see the most incredible sign in the history of the universe -- the very in-breaking of the the Kingdom of the heavens among us. What drags us back and holds us down is the "yeast of the Pharisees (6)." The teaching of the Pharisees is so burdened by human tradition and legalism it becomes paradigmaticly impossible to see the new move of God under our very noses.
13-20 contains the most important question of all. Someone once said that spiritually there are only three important questions. The first is the one addressed here: who is Jesus? In order to live this life and to be faithful Christ followers a clear and grounded answer to this question is essential. There are many answers that are given. In Jesus time some said he was Elijah (according to the prophet Malachi, Elijah was supposed to return and then the Messiah would come); others said he was John the Baptist raised from the dead (King Herod in chapter 14 made this argument); others suggested Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. In our world today there are multiple answers to this question. Some say Jesus was a legend (never really existed) others say he was a lunatic (crazy teaching) others that he was a "good moral teacher" and still others that he was a misunderstood Rabbi. The answer that Peter gives is the answer of the faithful. Peter says "You are the Messiah (the Christ) the Son of the living God!(16)"
Three questions that matter but the first one determines all else. Who is Jesus? The answer to the other two questions: What is Salvation? and What are the implications for living? are determined by how we answer the first question. If I know Jesus as Lord and Savior . . . salvation answers itself and the implications for living become clear as well.
Finally, Jesus says to take up your cross and follow me. What will it matter if you gain the whole world and lose your soul? What difference will it make if I have all that life says I should have and realize that the one thing that was most important -- eternally important -- is the one thing I have lost. When I give my life away in service to Christ and the world he loved . . . I gain life that is life indeed. One friend of mine put it this way: remember that giving is living and living is giving and joy is the inevitable result.