Summary: What we believe about Jesus Christ matters.
Has this ever happened to you? You get home from work. It’s been a long day. All you want to do is sit down, enjoy a nice meal, maybe catch a little TV, and go to bed. Your plan is interrupted by the ringing of the phone. You answer, and the person on the other end begins, “We’d like to take a moment of your time to take a poll…” You cringe, because the last thing you want to do is participate in an opinion poll.
I bet you didn’t know Jesus took the first public opinion poll? We find it in the passage we just read. He asked the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” The interesting thing is, pollsters have been asking that same question ever since. The disciples gave varying responses: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or another prophet. Take the poll today and we find responses like “God among men,” or “human but divinely called,” or “a good, moral teacher.” There are others, but now as then, the answers are varied. Does it matter who we think Jesus to be? Well, it mattered to Jesus. So much so that he asked his disciples just that question. I suppose it should matter to us. We know how Peter answered. How do we answer?
When we recite the second phrase of the Apostle’s Creed, we join our voices with Peter and proclaim to the world who we believe Jesus to be. Let’s unpack that phrase, and see if we can’t get a better understanding of what we believe about Jesus.
Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew Yeshua, which means, “God is Savior.” Joseph and Mary gave him the name in obedience to the command given by the angel Gabriel when Gabriel announced Jesus’ conception. God was working in Jesus to bring salvation to His creation. We believe Jesus is our salvation. Through Jesus, we have fellowship with the Father, we are redeemed from the bondage to sin, and we know we have security in heaven with him. But there is more.
Jesus is also the Christ. This is the title Peter ascribed to Jesus in this scene in the countryside of Caesarea Philippi. Christ in the Greek literally means “anointed one.” It, too, is a transliteration of the Hebrew word “Messiah”, which means “anointed one.” Christ is not Jesus’ last name. It is a title given because of who he is and the role he fills. Jesus understood his role as Messiah. He is/was the divinely anointed king sent to usher in God’s kingdom on earth. Not, however, the Kingdom the Jewish nation was looking for. The Jewish nation was looking for a king who would deliver them from the political bondage they were in, and would establish a political kingdom ruled from Jerusalem by God. Not much different than what we see in much of the Middle East still today. Jesus understood the Kingdom of God was not established by physical force and violence, but through love, humility, and service.
Too often, we’re looking for the wrong Jesus. We’re looking for the one who will save us from our circumstances. We make bad decisions, then go running to Jesus crying, “Save me!” That’s not the real Jesus. He didn’t die to change our circumstances. He died to change us. He died to reconcile us to the Father through himself. Sin is that which separates us from God. He died to forgive our sins, and rose to give us new life, eternal life, which is not necessarily length of life, but quality of life.
When Jesus began his earthly ministry, he walked into the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. He took the scroll of the day, opened it, and read these words: