Jesus said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
We'll come back to Jesus' words at the end, because they mean more when you have some context of labeling of "identity" to another person. Who do other people say that we are?
Have you seen what happens when one person sticks a label on another? It's usually bad, as in "you'll always be this way" or "you can't do anything right" or "you're a greedy slouch." For me, the identity-label that I walked around wearing for several decades wasn't one that was ever said out loud, I think, but a devil suggested it and I repeated it in my head on a looping track for years: "I'm difficult to love." (this may not sound bad to you, but it was a huge life-impediment to me)
One of my acquaintances told me that the repeating loop in his head was originally voiced by his mother in a negative reference, and it got him stuck for 40 years: "You're going to turn out just like your father." Another friend told me that his lifelong repeating loop was "I'm a pervert"--and the original label had come to him when he was age 10. Neither of these men consciously embraced the label, but an authority in their lives had given it to them and they found themselves in a repeating loop with it.
[Obviously sometimes a person can try to give you a label but it doesn't stick. Is that because labels require the Identified to apply his own adhesive? The Identifyer issues the label, but the Identified is the one who either takes it or dismisses it, based on who the Identifyer is? Why do some labels stick?]
If you haven't seen The Snoodle's Tale recently, please take a couple of minutes to go remind yourself or see it afresh: it ought to be available HERE or HERE. In this short cartoon video, the young Snoodle is the Identified and the older Snoodles are the Identifyers. Finally, our hero meets the man in the cave, who releases him from the labels that have weighed him down and then gives him a new identity. It's an important story. My favorite line is when the man in the cave says: "Here's how I see you," and hands the Snoodle a new identifying painting. Amazing. Chills.
Okay. By now we have it that in each of these interactions there is an Identifyer and an Identified, right? And always which person is moved? ... it's the Identified who changes, right?
So Jesus asks us his classic Identifying question. "Who do you say that I am?"
Humans have to be careful with this question. Don't go asking just anybody! Who moves when a human asks the question, after all? The one asking the question! The Identified.
And then Jesus asks it. And it's different.
For the first time in history, it's about to be the Identifyer who is changed by the issuing of an identity label, instead of the Identified. God doesn't move, and the identity-label-mechanics react explosively when applied to his immutable Diety. I say to Jesus "You are Lord" and it's like an explosion, but I'm the one who changes. I say to Him "You're a good, good Father" and I change again. The saints in heaven sing "The Lamb is Holy" and their identifying of Him is worship.
Jesus asks us to identify him. Who do you say that He is?