Who Do You Say That I Am
WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?
I want you to look at verse 15 again. In this verse Jesus asks His disciples, as well as all of us, the most significant and important question that you could ever be asked because the answer to this question has eternal consequences.
- A wrong answer to this question will result in a person being lost into an eternal punishment…but a right answer to this questions will result in an eternity in heaven.
- Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?”
But now, look at Peter’s answer to this question found in vs. 16. Peter answers and says, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
- That is the right answer isn’t it? Or is it?
- “Yes”, it is the right answer but the truth is, it is as wrong as it can be.
- And the thing is, this may be true for many of us as well.
- We might have the right answer to this question and still be as wrong as we can be.
- Let’s look at the passage and let me explain.
For some time now here in the book of Matthew, Jesus’ identity has been a topic of debate.
- Back in chapter 8 after Jesus calmed the storm His disciples asked, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him? Who is this man?
- In Matthew chapter 9, Jesus tells a paralytic that, “your sins are forgiven” and when the man gets up and walks the Jewish leaders call Jesus a blasphemer. Who is this man?
- Later on in Matthew chapter 9, some of the Jewish preachers wanted to know, “Why is your teacher eating with the tax gatherers and sinners?” Again, “Who is this man?”
- Then in verse 34 chapter 9 the Pharisees give their professional opinion when they say, “He cast out the demons by the ruler of the demons.” Who is this man?
- And then in Matthew 11, John the baptizer is in jail and he sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Expected One?”
- And if you remember in chapter 14, His own disciples thought He was a ghost!
We could go on and on but the point is, up to this point in the book of Matthew everyone seems to be trying to figure out, “Who Jesus is.”
- And let me tell you, the situation back then was the same as it is today.
- When it came to Jesus everyone had an opinion!
- No one was neutral when it came to an opinion of who Jesus was.
- He was in the headlines every day.
So now, look at verse 13. In verse 13 Jesus goes with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
- And as they walk along Jesus questions His disciples and He says, “Who do the people say that I am?”
- “What is the talk among the people? What are you hearing on the streets?
- “How are people explaining the power in the authority by which I work?”
Now the disciples would have made good politicians. Notice what they say: “Some say you are John the Baptist; others say you are Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.”
- Notice that they avoid the more degrading titles that people had given to Jesus!
- They only share the good reviews.
- “Who do people say that I am?”
- “Well some say you are a drunkard and a glutton if they ever saw one.”
- “Other people say you are a friend of sinners.”
- “Others say you are in league with the devil.”
- The disciples don’t say those things.
They say only the good things: “We hear people say that you might be John the Baptist, or you might be Elijah. They even say that you might be one of the prophets.”
- And there is some truth to that because Jesus is the prophet that Moses predicted would come.
But the problem with a little bit of truth is it contains a whole lot of lie.
- Do you know who Elijah and John and the prophets were?
- They were men.
- What people had done was reduced Jesus to nothing more than a godly man.
And that is the same thing that is so prevalent today.
- People today are constantly classifying Jesus with the best the man and nothing more.
- “Jesus? What do I say about Jesus? Well I tell you what! He is one of the finest man who is ever ”
- “Not only that, he was a great moralist. You know that stuff he said about turning the other cheek. Boy that is good stuff!”
- “And what he said about loving your enemies. That is pretty radical but boy would this world be a better place if we could all live like Jesus?”
- “Yes sir, I am here to say that I think Jesus was a fine man and we need more people like him today.”
And that is what most religions outside of Christianity do with Christ.
- They make Him a good, moral man.
- They put Him on the same level as Gandhi or Mohammed.
- But they refuse to acknowledge Him for what He really is and that is God.
- What the people were doing here in this passage is the same thing that people do today.
And so look at what Jesus does next. In verse 15 He asks His disciples, “What do you say? Who do you say that I am?”
- He asks this question specifically for the purpose of bringing the thinking of the disciples into conflict with the thinking of the people.
- “Who do you say that I am?”
- “Am I just another good man to you or do you see anything in me that is unique that cannot be found in any other man?”
- “When you look at all that I have done…when you consider all that I have taught…when you look at the facts…who do you say that I am?”
And look at what Peter says. Peter says, “You are not just another man.”
- “You are not just another preacher that has come down the road.”
- “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Peter had seen and heard all that Jesus had done and said and he concluded that Jesus was more than just another man.
- He had seen it all and he concluded that Jesus was in fact a special agent appointed by God to fulfill all the divine promises that had been made to Israel.
- And he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Now, that is the right answer isn’t it?
- In fact, Jesus says in verse 17 that this answer was revealed to Peter by the Father who is in heaven.
- And upon the facts of this statement Jesus is going to build His church…and the gates of Hades shall not over power it.
- And then in verse 19 He tells Peter that He is going to give Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever he binds on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever he shall loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
- So it is obvious that Peter’s answer is right….but did Peter really understand who Jesus really was? Did any of the disciples fully understand who Jesus was?
You see, here is what we do…we take Peter’s confession here and we put the knowledge that we have of the rest of the New Testament…and the knowledge that we have concerning Christ and His death on the cross…and the knowledge that we have of Christ coming back some day to save the redeemed…and we take it for granted the Peter understood what we understand about Jesus.
But let me ask you this. As a Jewish boy growing up what was Peter and the other disciples taught about the Messiah? In fact, what did most of the Jews think that the Messiah was going to do?
- They were taught that the Christ was the one that God was going to send to deliver Israel and liberate Palestine.
- They were taught that the Christ was going to come and drive the Romans out of the land.
- They thought that the Christ was the one who was going to make their enemies suffer and die.
In fact, in Acts 1:6, after Jesus had been crucified and raised from the dead, just prior to His ascension He met with the disciples and guess what they asked? “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
- A year after the events of Matthew 16 the disciples still didn’t understand who Jesus really was.
- They thought He was going to restore the nation and bring honor back to the kingdom…and that is why some wanted to make Him king.
So, when Peter says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” did he have the right answer?
- Yes! But the problem is he had the wrong idea of what Jesus had come to do.
- And what we need to understand is an individual can say, “Jesus is the Christ, He is the Son of the living God” and have his heart set the whole time on his own agenda and not God’s.
So Jesus can’t let Peter or the other disciples go out spreading a wrong concept about who He is…so in verse 20 Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anyone that He is the Christ.
And in verse 21, Jesus begins to teach the disciples more about what He must do as the Messiah. Look at what it says: From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.
- Why did Jesus have to teach them this?
- Because they had a different understanding of what the Messiah was to do!
- And that understanding didn’t include a Messiah that was going to die.
And the disciples, specifically Peter, who was planning on being a part of this new regime didn’t like it when Jesus tells them that He must die.
- So Peter pulls Jesus aside and Peter starts to tell Jesus how things are going to be.
- And he rebukes Jesus!
- Jesus suffering and dying didn’t fit his idea of what the Messiah was to do or be!
And Jesus turns around and He rebukes Peter and says, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
- This is a pretty strong rebuke!
- Where Jesus says, “Get behind Me”…that is the same word that Jesus used when He spoke to the devil when Satan took him to the top of the mountain and said, “I will give you all the kingdoms of the world.”
- And Jesus said, “Be gone.”
- This is the same word.
And when Jesus tells Peter “to get behind Him”, He is telling Peter to return to where a true disciple belongs.
- You see, a true disciple doesn’t belong out front telling Jesus what to do.
- It is not a disciple’s place to fashion his leader.
- When Peter rebuked Jesus, he had already in his mind fashioned Jesus to be the Messiah that he wanted!
- He was doing just exactly what Satan wanted him to do.
- No wonder Jesus refers to him as Satan.
- When Jesus says “Satan”, He reveals the source of Peter’s thoughts.
- Peter wasn’t thinking with the will of God in mind.
- He was thinking just like Satan wanted him too.
- And that brings us to what we really need to understand about this passage.
When it comes to the question of “Who Jesus is”, Satan is actively involved in trying to distort your view.
- He is quite willing for you to have a view of Jesus as long as you have one of those mixed up, wrong, distorted views like Peter had instead of the real thing.
If he can cause you to settle on a wrong view of Jesus…
- …if he can get you to fashion your own Jesus…
- …if he can get you to fashion for yourself a selfish, self- satisfying, all tolerant, permissive Jesus, then he will have defeated you.
Let me ask you this: How many times does the Bible talk about and warn against the sin of idolatry?
- What was the appeal to idolatry?
- Remember those people back in the Old Testament that would take wood and gold and make an image and sit down and worship it?
- Why would they do that?
- What is the appeal of idolatry?
The appeal of idolatry is that you get to shape God into the image that most pleases you.
- And so, do you want to make war Russian Mark then make war gods.
- Do you want to last? Have love gods.
Now that is something that we think that pagans do.
- But let me tell you, people who call themselves Christians do the same thing.
- We do just exactly what Peter had done here and we fashion Christ into what we want him to be in order to satisfy our desires.
- We won’t God to endorse us and the things we like to do, so we fashion Him to be what we want.
Watch some of the preachers on TV sometime.
- Notice what kind of Jesus they have fashion.
- Most of the time He is Anglo.
- He is normally American, and a capitalist, and a Republican.
- And he wants you to be rich, and the most important thing to him is your physical health.
Now we laugh at that and we watch those guys on TV fashion Jesus that way.
- But before we laugh too loud we had better look at the Jesus that we have fashioned for ourselves individually.
- And we might find out that we have done exactly what Satan wants us to do.
- “My Jesus doesn’t care if I attend the worship assemblies are not.”
- “My Jesus doesn’t want me to be baptized.”
- “My Jesus doesn’t mind if I curse or gossip or slander others.”
- “My Jesus doesn’t mind if I drink a little, take drugs, sleep around, and acting immorally.”
- “My Jesus doesn’t care if I give the lost the impression they are saved.”
- Just recently on the news I saw a group who call themselves Christians and their Jesus was accepting and tolerant of homosexuality.
When we fashion Jesus to fit what we want we are doing exactly what Satan wants us to do
- And let me tell you, Satan has deluded millions and millions into fashioning Jesus into what they want instead of what he really is
When Jesus calls Peter “Satan”, He was exactly right for Peter was doing exactly what Satan wanted him to do.
- And we need to understand that Satan is actively trying to get us to have a half-truth, distorted view of who Christ is.
In this passage Peter calls Jesus the “Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
- There is something here that we need to understand. Peter didn’t understand it at first.
- He came to understand it and we need to understand it too.
- When you call Jesus the “Christ, the Son of the living God” you give up the right to define what that means.
- When you call Jesus the “Christ, the son of the living God” you surrender the right to define Him.
- Instead, He has the right to define you.
When you make choices this coming week, when you start your day and you face the things that are going to come before you, what view of Jesus is going to shape your decision? Is it going to be the one of the Messiah with a cross, or is it going to be one of your own making that lets you avoid the hard choices?
Who is Jesus? I don’t care if you are not a Christian or if you have been a Christian for 50 years, I want you this morning to answer the question, “Who is Jesus of Nazareth?” It is the most intensely debated question in history. It is the most important question you will ever answer. And, I warn you that your answer can cost you your soul, or it can also save.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023