“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’”
Personality and persona are not the same thing. One of the most important things that we can do in Christ is to understand exactly how these two aspects of ourselves represent our identity in Him. And it’s not easy—we grow up with our personality. It’s who we are to ourselves for a long time, and it informs and is informed by our experiences in the world. But our persona is how others see us, how we construct ourselves to be, how we present ourselves to our friends, our families, and the people we meet on a daily basis. Together, these two often conflicting, paradoxical ideas meld together into our identity as people. And as Christians, our persona is born of our calling in Christ. How we present ourselves and how others see us is a facet of our anointing.
Matthew 16:15 is one of the more famous single line quotes from the gospels, because it’s a question we’re encouraged to ask for ourselves in our own lives. It’s also the key scriptural example of the conundrum of identity when it comes to differentiating between personality and persona. Jesus was not a cipher, a mysterious and enigmatic stranger come into the lives of the disciples to show them hidden mysteries. He was a man, with family and connections in the places that He had grown in, and the disciples, whatever else they might have been, were His friends. Some had known Him for several years, and whatever else they loved Him for, they loved their friend.
At first He asked them, “Who do men say that I am?” And the disciples replied with prevarication—He was one of the prophets, John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah. It was only when He asked them point blank who they thought that He was that Simon Peter, that impulsive, emotional man that Jesus loved so much, blurted out what he saw when he looked at Him: the son of the living God. The hour was coming when Jesus would be delivered to His enemies, and it was incredibly important to Him that they properly understood who He was: not just His personality, the man they traveled and ate with, but His persona in the Father. He needed his friends to recognize Him for who He truly was, in order that when He was faced with his greatest challenge, they did not simply mourn their friend’s death, but that they celebrated the life of the Son of God, and sought to emulate him in their own lives—that they recognized their own calling and their own persona in God.
In that moment of spiritual revelation, Jesus revealed to Simon Peter his own persona in the Father—that he was the rock on which He would build His church. Now, we all know how the rest of Simon Peter’s story went. Upon Christ’s death, he was asked three times if he knew Him, and each time, he denied it. He acted in his terror, his fear of reprisal, his fear of consequence—his personality, not the persona that Jesus had revealed to him only weeks earlier at his affirmation to Christ. But this moment of weakness passed, and Simon Peter did indeed become the cornerstone of the new church in the days that came afterwards. Acting in his calling, his anointing, he became the man that Christ called him to be.
Simon Peter wasn’t the only famous name from the Bible to slip at the first hurdle. Moses was called to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt by nothing less than the Father appearing to him in a bush burning with ethereal fire, and upon hearing the persona that God had in mind for him, his first question was “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” He acted in his personality. Who was he? God had just told him in explicit detail, anointed him with the persona of a deliverer! In his second question, he once again acted in his personality: “What is your name?” And God, who had shown Himself to Moses in holy fire and spoken to him of deliverance and charged him with an anointing of great power, simply directed Moses to the persona that He presented and said, “I AM WHO I AM.”
Gideon fared better when presented with his calling to save Israel from the Midianites—as scared as Moses had been, he asked for reassurance, for the confidence necessary to go from being the frightened youngest son of a farmer to the powerful man of valor that the angel of the Lord named him. He saw the conflict between his personality and the persona laid upon him, and did not question it, but asked for the help necessary to accept the Lord’s calling. This is how we must respond when our own calling is revealed to us. We measure and understand our own personalities, in order that we can discern the measure of difference between who we are and who we are called to be, and recognize the totality of our identity in the Kingdom.
When Simon Peter spoke out and confirmed Christ’s identity in front of Jesus and all of the disciples, without hesitation and with his full heart, something shifted in the heavens. In the same way, when we understand and accept who the Lord wants us to be in Christ, the person that we must present to the world, something powerful happens in the Kingdom. A great bell is waiting to ring for us all.