A Series of Queries
Whom Say Ye That I Am?
Text: Matthew 16:13-15
Introduction: One of my favourite stories, (whether it is true or not I cannot really say – the Irish love telling “stories”), is about the golfer Seve Ballesteros when he was playing in the Irish Open Golf Championship at Portmarnock. Apparently one of the evenings after play Ballesteros turned up at the Club House not wearing a tie. The doorman who was undoubtedly being a little too zealous stopped him, and pointed out that Club rules required the wearing of a tie, to which Ballesteros replied, “Do you know who I am.” “Yes, sir,” replied the doorman, but you must still wear a tie. “Look, Ballesteros replied, I am the world’s number 1 golfer.” The doorman acknowledged that, and responded, “But you must still wear a tie to get in.” At this point, the golfer growing evermore frustrated with the doorman declared, “Look, if I wanted to I could buy this clubhouse and the entire club.” “In that case”, replied the doorman, “you can afford to buy a tie.”
“Do you know who I am?” is a question often asked in pride and arrogance. It seeks another to acknowledge the superiority of the one posing the question. Tonight, in our series of queries, Jesus asks the question, “Whom say ye that I am?” It was not a question asked in either arrogance or pride, but was purposed to press the disciples for a true profession of faith. To say, as Peter did, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” demanded a lot of courage of conviction. If there was any doubt on this matter Peter was placing his life on the line, risking the possibility of creating offence among his Jewish audience, and even the possibility of death by stoning. It was an audacious profession of faith in response to Jesus’ question. Yet, it was an answer that was not only expected by Christ but commended by Him.
Whom say ye that I am? Now, there’s a question!, and it subject of tonight’s message.
I. It Was A Pertinent Question.
A. This is really a question that comes in two parts – “What do others think,… and what do you say?”
B. Men have never been short of opinions when it comes to Jesus Christ.
1. The celebrated Irish author, James Joyce said of Him, “He comes into the world God knows how, walks on the water, gets out of his grave and goes up off the Hill of Howth. What drivel is this?”
2. Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet Union leader, said, “Jesus was the first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind.”
3. The German philosopher, who announced the death of God, Friedrich Nietzsche, wrote, “The word ’’Christianity’’ is already a misunderstanding - in reality there has been only one Christian, and he died on the Cross.” Clearly he saw Christ as finished.
4. And of course John Lennon, is infamously quoted as saying, “We’re more popular than Jesus Christ now. I don’t know which will go first; rock and roll or Christianity.”
5. All these voices were anti Christ. These men were atheists and unbelievers.
6. And in Jesus’ day too there were unbelievers who questioned His Person and His purpose and who leveled criticisms of Him.
a. Some said he was of the devil, others accused him of gluttony and drunkenness, and as a Law breaker.
7. Jesus has always been a divisive character.
8. Thankfully, though, not everyone hold him in such low regard.
9. Napoleon, “I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”
9. H.G. Wells, “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very centre of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”
10. Einstein remarked, “As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene... No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”
11. Gandhi, “A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”
12. These men too are unbelievers but, their opinions differ sharply from those who set their face totally against Christ.
a. Their words reveal respect, and admiration – although these are no substitute for believing faith and worship.
C. Our text reveals there were men like that in Jesus’ time also.
1. “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:13-14)
2. This question was relevant to the hour, Jesus was the talking point throughout society – He still is.
3. Men were unsure how to read His life, and opinions varied.
4. These were the opinions of those who respected and admired Him.
5. Interestingly, with the exception of Elijah, for Him to have been any of these figures would have required a belief in reincarnation – these men were long dead, and since the Bible, both Old & New Testaments teach resurrection, not reincarnation, they were suggestions that could be immediately identified as erroneous.
6. It seems it was easier to accept Jesus as a returning prophet than as the Son of God.
7. Look at these figures:
a. Why John the Baptist? Because of His CRY. Jesus, like John, came preaching, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
(i) With John dead, all eyes were now in Christ, and His message mirrored that of His forerunner. People thought he somehow embodied the spirit of John.
b. Why Elijah? Because of His CAPABILITIES. Elijah was associated with the miraculous, and so was Jesus. James, when writing to Jewish believers had to remind them that Elijah was a man of like passions as we are, because they so readily identified him with the supernatural.
(i) Of course Jesus too performed many miracles. More than Elijah, and some thought Elijah had come. Of course Elijah was prophesied to come before Messiah sets up his kingdom, that being the case, these folks, whilst recognising the godly character of Christ were effectively denying Him as Messiah.
c. Why Jeremiah? Because of His COMPASSION. Jeremiah is the weeping prophet – See Lam 3:48, 49 & 51.
(i) Jesus too was a Man of Sorrows, He too wept over Jerusalem, and the people of that city. The shortest verse in the Bible says, “Jesus wept.” We can understand their mistake.
d. And the other prophets? Because of their CONVICTION. You read the prophets of old, and one after another they condemn the idolatry and tired religion of ancient Judah.
(i) Jesus too stood up to the religious leaders of His day and condemned their hypocrisy, and false religion.
D. So Jesus divided opinions even in his day.
1. the first part of His query brought many and varied answers just as it would in our day.
2. But then He narrowed it down, so that…
II. It Was A Personal Question
A. “But whom say ye that I am?”
B. You see it doesn’t really matter what others say, at the end of the day it is what YOU believe personally that makes the difference.
C. We are so used to palming off the difficult questions of life to others.
1. We like to do, as the disciples did, and quote others and fall back on their opinions.
2. We quote Prime Ministers and Presidents, celebrities, even relatives rather than come up with answers of our own.
3. But God will never allow us away with that.
4. We must answer for ourselves:
a. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom 14:12)
5. “Whom do YE say that I am?”
D. Each disciple had his own thoughts.
1. I can almost imagine them, glancing furtively at each other wondering who will speak first.
2. You know it’s a funny thing in a group like that, when a searching question is asked, for no one wants to answer, everyone fears they might be wrong, each one is afraid of stepping out of line, of being rejected or disrespected by their peer group.
3. We often set peer pressure in the context of teen culture, but peer pressure is something we live with our whole live long.
4. Real leaders learn to break free of it and speak for themselves, and among that number is Peter.
E. Peter speaks up and says, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
1. You know it took immense courage to say that.
a. To the Jews, to call someone a "son" of something was to say he is identified with, indistinguishable from, that thing or person.
b. Barnabas was named the "Son of Consolation." Why? Because he was that kind of man - an encouraging, consoling fellow.
(i) His nickname meant that he was the very epitome of consolation.
(ii) He was the expression of it.
c. To the Jews, the use of the term, Son of God, or Son of the Living God, meant, "This one is God."
d. And for any Jew to say that of someone who was so observably a man took great nerve.
2. I feel sorry for the way Peter is often portrayed today as the buffoon of this group – you know, “Open mouth, and insert foot.”
3. Yes, sometimes He spoke out of turn and said some foolish things, but leaders take risks, and what he was saying here was risky, it could have seriously backfired!
4. I can almost imagine everyone sitting with bated breath waiting on Jesus’ response.
5. But when that response came it proved that this question…
III. It Was a Powerful Question.
A. Jesus response to Peter’s answer was, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”
B. You see this question was revelatory, in so far as it exposed true belief and expressed true blessing.
1. It said something about the Sovereignty of God, as well as the responsibility of man.
2. You see man, as we have discussed already, is personally accountable to god, each must answer for himself.
3. But simultaneously salvation is a work of God, and without the enlightening and convicting power of the Spirit no man can know the truth and be saved.
C. “Whom do YE say that I am?”
1. Eternity hinges on your answer to that question.
2. Its all about Christ, and how we respond to Him; what we do with Him; Scripture records Him as the One with whom we have to do. (Heb 4:13)
3. Pilate did not realise what a profound question he posed the baying crowd in Jerusalem when he asked, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?”
4. If only He had known eternity hung upon that decision.
5. And just as it was for Peter, and just as it was for Pilate, eternity hangs on that question for you, “Whom do YE say that I am?”
Conclusion: Are you confused about how to answer? Then we shall let Jesus answer it for you. Seven times in John’s gospel Jesus makes "I am" statements that answer this query. “Who am I?” "I am the bread of life," that is, I am the sustainer of life, the One who satisfies life. Who am I? "I am the light of the world," the illuminator. the one who explains all things, the one who casts light upon all mysteries and enigmas and solves them. The One who makes sense of life. Who am I? "I am the door the open way. Who am I? "I am the good shepherd" your guide for life, the only one properly equipped to take an individual and safely steer him through all the problems and difficulties that arise on every side, and lead him safely through. Who am I? "I am the resurrection and the life," the power of life. Do you realise that resurrection power is the only kind that works when nothing else will? It works in the midst of death. When nothing else can be done, when the doctors look at your loved ones and say, “Sorry there is no more we can do,” then it comes in and begins to act. "I am the resurrection and the life," Jesus says. Who am I? "I am the way, the truth, and the life," that is, I am ultimate reality. The ONLY hope of eternal soul salvation. Who am I? "I am the vine… without me ye can do nothing." I am the producer of fruitfulness, the source of fellowship and of identity and communion.
That is who Jesus says He is. But He asks each of us, “Whom do YE say that I am?”
C.S. Lewis in "Mere Christianity" said about Jesus, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”
(Contributed to Sermon Central by: Jason Duncan)
Whom do Ye say that I am?