Summary: In this lesson we learn the significance of confessing Jesus as the Christ.
For the past 20 months we have been studying the life of Jesus as it has been recorded in the Gospel of Luke.
Recently we invited friends and guests to our Easter Service by asking the question, “Why did Easter change history?”
Today’s text is especially appropriate in answering that question as it helps us understand Jesus’ identity and mission.
Let’s read about Peter confession in Luke 9:18-20:
18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:18-20)
On the game show Family Feud, hosted by Steve Harvey, contestants are asked to guess how 100 people responded to various survey questions. In a 2012 episode, a contestant had to provide the top answers to the following survey question: “When someone mentions ‘the King,’ to whom might he or she be referring?” Here were the top four answers:
1. 81 people said, “Elvis Presley.”
2. 7 people said, “God or Jesus.”
3. 3 people said, “Martin Luther King, Jr.”
4. 2 people said, “Burger King.”
Now, how would you have responded if I had handed out a survey this morning and asked each of you the question, “When someone mentions ‘the King,’ to whom might I be referring?”
My guess is that most of you would answer, “Jesus,” especially since you are being asked in a Christian worship service and it is, after all, Easter Sunday!
But what may seem obvious and self-evident to us was not so obvious and self-evident when Jesus was alive. In fact, even Jesus’ closest disciples took a long time to understand his true identity. Massive crowds were drawn to Jesus, primarily because of his miracles. His preaching and teaching were also impressive to vast numbers of people. Nevertheless, it took years for some of them to understand his true identity.
The analysis of Peter’s confession in Luke 9:18-20 will teach us the significance of confessing Jesus as the Christ.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The First Question of Jesus (9:18)
2. The View of the Crowds (9:19)
3. The Second Question of Jesus (9:20a)
4. The Confession of Peter (9:20b)
I. The First Question of Jesus (9:18)
First, let’s look at the first question of Jesus.
Luke said in verse 18a that as Jesus was praying alone, the disciples were with him. Luke did not say where Jesus was when he was praying alone, but we know from Matthew and Mark that Jesus and the disciples were in “the district of Caesarea Philippi” (Matthew 16:13; cf. Mark 8:27).
John MacArthur says that Caesarea Philippi was. . .
. . . located north of the Sea of Galilee on the slopes of Mt. Hermon, about forty to fifty miles southwest of Damascus. It was near the extreme northern boundary of Old Testament Israel, not far from the city of Dan. It was originally named Panion, after the god Pan, whom Greek settlers, who entered the region after the death of Alexander the Great, worshiped in a nearby cave. Herod the Great built a temple there, and dedicated it to Rome and Caesar Augustus. Herod’s son Philip the Tetrarch renamed the city Caesarea and appended his own name to it to distinguish it from the other Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast. At more than one thousand feet in elevation, this scenic region offered Jesus and the apostles some relief from the crowds in the lowlands.
Caesarea Philippi was a religiously diverse community. It was in this setting that Jesus asked his twelve disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (9:18b). Jesus wanted to know what the word on the street was about his identity. Jesus wanted to know what public opinion was about who he was.
Now Jesus was really testing his twelve apostles. They had been with him for about two years now, and he wanted to know what they understood about his identity and mission.
So Jesus began by asking, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
II. The View of the Crowds (9:19)
Second, notice the view of the crowds.
The disciples had not only been with Jesus but they also mixed with the crowds. They were quite familiar with the view of the crowds. And they answered Jesus, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen” (9:19).
First, I want you to notice that no one on the street thought that Jesus was the Christ. No one correctly understood Jesus’ identity.