Summary: Knowing Jesus is more than knowing facts; this sermon stresses the need for personal knowledge of and commitment to the Lord.
Who is Jesus Christ? Opinions vary.
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He never went to college. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself. He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race, and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as has that One Solitary Life. (Philips Brooks, an American Episcopal pastor, cited Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 2000)
Fundamentally, our Lord’s message was Himself. He did not come merely to preach a Gospel; He himself is that Gospel. He did not come merely to give bread; He said, “I am the bread.” He did not come merely to shed light; He said, “I am the light.” He did not come merely to show the door; He said, “I am the door.” He did not come merely to name a shepherd; He said: “I am the shepherd.” He did not come merely to point the way; He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (J. Sidlow Baxter, a British Bible teacher, cited Nelson)
A few weeks before he died, Benjamin Franklin responded to an inquiry by President Ezra Stiles of Yale University concerning his religious faith. Said Franklin: “As to Jesus of Nazareth … I have … some doubts as to his Divinity, tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequences … of making his doctrines more respected and observed.” (Pocket, Age of Reason Reader, “Cautious Deist”).
This morning, we are looking at the issue of knowing Jesus. We will take a look at this issue by asking two questions that, I believe, have eternal consequences. Be sure today that you listen with your heart—this may well be the most important sermon you will ever hear me preach.
I. Do you know who Jesus is?
A. Jesus asked his disciples two important questions.
1. Who do people say that I am?
2. Who do you say that I am?
B. As in Jesus’ day, a lot of differing opinions exist concerning Jesus of Nazareth—with only one affirming the truth.
C. A lot of opinions exist, but we must move beyond opinion.
1. Each of us must deal with this ultimate question in life: who is Jesus?
2. This is the single-most important question you will ever have to answer (and you will have to answer it, here or in the world to come).
3. Think carefully now—who do you think Jesus to be: who is he to your life? Do you know the Lord?
a. If, like Peter, you claim him to be the Christ, then your life is forever changed.
b. If you call him Lord, then you must be prepared to yield your life to him.
Transition: this leads us to the second part of our search today—if you confess Jesus to be Lord, that confession leads us to our second question.
II. Do you know what he wants?
A. In our text, Peter challenged his master.
1. After the confession, Jesus began to show what being Messiah meant.
2. Peter did not want Jesus to die.
3. Peter’s rebuke of Jesus paved the way for Jesus’ most succinct statement on discipleship.
a. The way of discipleship was not to be the way of self-assertion (what the disciple wanted was clearly not the most important thing in this world).
b. The way of discipleship was self-denial: God’s will was to be followed, at all costs.
c. The willingness to follow Christ demanded a willingness to go to the very end for him—to the very death.