Jesus: A Case Of Mistaken Identity - Devotions for the Man in the Mirror

Jesus: A Case Of Mistaken Identity

But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Matthew 16:15

For several years two dozen men, half black and half white, met on a Saturday morning once each month. A racial disturbance in our city had prompted both groups of us to ask the same questions, “Who are these people, and how can we know them?” So we started meeting to find some answers. Our purpose was not to change the city, but to change ourselves, to learn how to love one another.

One day at lunch three of us were discussing an issue. The confident, radiant demeanor of one of the men, a black pastor, commanded respect. During our conversation, however, he made a radical statement about remaining patient that seemed out of character. Immediately, the two of us jumped on him like a dog on a bone.

He slowly turned his eyes to explore each of our faces; then he began to speak, deliberate and restrained. In the next few minutes he revealed an astonishing addition to my understanding of who he was.

“When I arrived at my first church,” he began, “weeds had taken the place over. The building was in shambles. Five pastors had come and gone in three years. No one in the community had any confidence that I would be any different, so no one came to worship.

“My wife and I patched and painted and replaced the broken windows. Over time we restored the church building to a functional state. I made calls around the community, but still no one seemed the least bit interested.

“So, not knowing exactly what to do, I decided to prepare and preach my sermons as if the place was full. Every Sunday morning I stepped into the pulpit and preached my best sermons to empty pews—completely empty pews except for my wife. Every Sunday for three years I preached as though the place was packed, but in reality it was still empty.

“Finally, after three strained years, God gave us one family. He became my Sunday School superintendent—his kids were the only ones we had in Sunday School. Slowly, over the next few months, however, God began to bless. He rewarded my faithfulness all those years. My preaching to an empty church may not have been smart, but it was faithful; I was patient, and I persevered.”

By now my friend and I had melted into an embarrassed puddle of humbled awe. We had questioned his radical statement about patience. The real lesson for the day was about jumping to conclusions, about not taking time to know the true identity of one we called our friend.

We thought we knew the true identity of this black pastor. We had taken the little we knew, projected it, and come to the wrong conclusion. He was more than what he appeared to be. Isn’t everyone more than what they first appear to be?

During His year of popularity, Jesus asked his disciples one day, “‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’”

“They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets’” (Matthew 16:13-14).

Of course, Jesus already knew who the people thought He was. They thought He was anyone and everyone except who He really was. It was a case of mistaken identity. The people took what little they knew of Jesus and came to the wrong conclusion. He was more than He appeared to be.

Then Jesus queried his disciples. “‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’”

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:16).

As Peter learned more of this remarkable man, his respect turned to awe. Then he humbled himself, confessing Him to be the Messiah, the Christ. Peter learned the true identity of Jesus, not just a good man, not just a prophet, not just a moral teacher, or a man of prayer, or a priest, but “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16).

Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. He was far more than He first appeared. The people had mistaken His identity. Still do. “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (v. 15).

Are you sure of His real identity? Have you assumed too little—or too much—about who He is? Do you understand His character? Don’t get caught in a case of mistaken identity.

Know the Jesus who is, not the Jesus you want. Yes, He is a moral teacher, a prophet, and a priest. But He is also the King, the Eternal Creator, the Father, the Christ, the Son of the living God. Know Him as He really is, be humbled by the revelation of His true identity, and worship Him, Christ the King.


Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I am often guilty of mistaking Your identity. I suspect I have thought too narrowly of You. I have held to my own perceptions of who You are, and who I want You to be. Help me to know You as You really are, not as I perceive You to be. Amen.

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