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Summary: Help your listeners answer the ultimate question: "Who do you say Jesus is?"

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What are your deepest hopes and hurts? Fondest dreams and desires? Frustrations and fears? Worries and anxieties?

Will being here make any difference?

Yes!

The Living Christ is here! What do you really expect He can and will do for you? Spurgeon was right, " We have great needs, but we have a great Christ for our needs!"

The lyrics of a popular contemporary song by Brendan Graham and Rolf Lovland that communicates what Christ is ready to do for us and through us.

"When I am down and, oh my soul so weary;

When troubles come and my heart burdened be;

Then I am still and wait here in silence,

Until You come and sit awhile with me.

There is no life, no life without its hunger.

Each restless heart beats so imperfectly,

But when You come and I am filled with wonder,

Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

You raise me up so I can stand on mountains,

You raise me up to walk on stormy seas,

I am strong when I am on Your shoulders,

You raise me up to more than I can be."

Is that what you want from the Savior this morning:

vision, courage, strength, power to exceed your expectations? Who wouldn't? ! And yet, they are all available only to those who are able to answer His ultimate question.

Christ first asked life's ultimate question on the road

to Caesarea Philippi. Few places could have provided a more significant locale.

Jesus, walking ahead of His disciples, was silhouetted against the city in all its Roman glory. Rising up out of its center was a translucent temple of white marble built by Herod the Great in honor of the Caesars. Around it were magnificent villas and palaces added by Herod's son Philip, who had renamed the city to honor Caesar, and to impress his own name in history!

The power of Rome was in the air, but so were the hauntingly vivid memories of worship of the pagan god, Baal-once so powerful in that region. In fact, before Philip renamed it, the city had been called Balinas in honor of the pagan fertility god. Ruins of temples and shrines of Baal orgy worship punctuated the landscape.

Framing the view and overshadowing the region was Mount Hermon, metaphor of Israel's quest for God. Undoubtedly, sharp recollections filled the disciples' minds of the strategic times God had encountered great leaders of Israel on that mountain. On the slope of Hermon a cliff filled with ancient inscriptions and niches containing statues of pagan gods gave stark reminder of the conflict Israel had faced maintaining its monotheism against syncretism, the blending of religions and their gods.

It was here in this region of ambiguous symbols of humankind's lust for military might and the religious quest for meaning, that Jesus stopped, turned, and confronted His disciples with a penultimate question, "Who do men say that I am?"

This was not the question of an insecure leader seeking to know his standing in the public opinion polls. It was a probing inquiry designed to determine the extent to which people were discovering His true identity, mission and message.

The answers were really very complimentary. The disciples rehearsed the speculations they had heard.

They told Jesus that the fears of Herod Antipas, who murdered John the Baptist, had promoted the theory that He was John raised from the dead. Others believed He fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi that He was Elijah come to prepare the way for the Messiah. Still others surmised that the vision given to Judas Maccabaeus was being realized: He was Jeremiah who had come with a golden sword to wage war for the deliverance of Israel. Others simply said Jesus was one of the prophets.

It was at this significant moment that Jesus pressed home life's ultimate question. Surrounded by geographical and topographical evidences of humankind's longing for an answer to the riddle of life, and in the emotional context of the varied, but false opinions about His real identity, Jesus asked the disciples, "But who do you say that I am?

Only one could find his voice to answer. It was not a levered response, and it did not come quickly. Simon's response was seasoned by deep thought and

motivated by a gift of faith from the Father. His face was radiant and his voice alive with the excitement and insight as he answered: " You are the Christ." (Matthew's Gospel records the full statement: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Matt. 16:16)

Clearly Simon acknowledged Jesus not as forerunner of the Messianic age, but as the Messiah Himself. This had been hinted at before early in the Master's ministry when Andrew and John had announced to Simon that they had found the Messiah. When Simon first met the Master He had said to him, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas ( which is translated, a stone)." John 1:42.

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