There are two questions I want to point us in the direction of from this passage of scripture;
Mathew ch 16 v 13 Jesus asks, “Who do people say that the son of man is?”
And Mathew ch 16 v 15 where Jesus asks “But who do you say that I am?”
We start the narrative with this discourse between Jesus and the Pharisees and Sadducees, they approach and require a sign from him, they were pretending to be willing to learn and follow him if he could display for them some outward show of heavenly spiritual power. Jesus saw through them, they had seen miracles, received reports on them yet they constantly wanted more, no one could have performed the miracles Jesus did except God was with him, but they wanted something else! They wanted there very own performance. They despised the necessary purpose of God, rather instead looking for something to gratify their own selfish desires. Tempting the wisdom of God with foolish earthly and hollow requests.
How we too need to bear in mind that when we approach the Lord that we do so reverently, carefully and selflessly when we seek petition him oh behalf of self or others!
How they united against him these Pharisees and Sadducees, both opposed to each other in reality, yet uniting here against what they saw as a common threat, an enemy to their status and authority.
The Pharisees of course were the keepers of Mosaic Law, the Torah, or books of Moses. To us the first five books of the Old Testament, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. They believed that Messiah would be an earthly King one whom God would raise up from King David’s blood line. That he would free them from the tyranny of Roman occupation. They believed in separation from all gentile sinners and in temple worship being at the heart of every part of their existence. Ritual and sacrifice were the most important factors of their daily lives. They so often neglected their own personal relationship with God and replaced faith with strict laws and customs. Often as here we see they were full of self righteousness and hypocrisy.
Of the Sadducees little is really known, they were the controllers of the Temple which gave them a position of authority, often of the privileged in society, they denied the existence of spirits and the after life and did not accept the many customs of the Pharisees instead looking strictly to the Torah for their guide to belief and living.
They saw Jesus as a common enemy and threat to their existence. If the people believed in his teaching, then what had they to offer? It was blind hatred really that led certainly the Pharisees to attack Jesus at every opportunity they got. And so we see Jesus warning his disciples in v 6 of what he calls the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, he goes further to clarify his statement and explains that it is their corrupt principles and practices he is warning them of. These Pharisees and Sadducees, they had looked to strict laws and ordinances, passed down rituals and teachings when despite all this knowledge, in fact they failed to recognise the fulfilment of all its teaching was standing in front of them. That which the prophets foretold had come to pass but because it was not what they desired or expected they failed to recognise it.
Jesus knew their hearts, saw them blinded by their own foolishness and greed. Saw their desire for authority and position and power above all things over the people. The same people that they were supposed to be ministering too! He compared them to leaven. Mathew Henry states “The corrupt principles and practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees are compared to leaven; they were souring and swelling and spreading like leaven, they fermented wherever they came”
That sour compound has only one purpose and that is to blindly increase and expand that which it is amongst at the cost of all other, no sense or reason just an inbuilt desire to expand its own substance. No thought, no regard to its relationship with God, merely blind increase of self.
The warning is to beware of false teaching, that which lifts up men, elevates earthly status, does not own nor recognise at its heart Gods plan and purpose. Anything that would distract us from serving the Lord. The Lord calls it leaven!
Beware today leaven within our church organisation, within our councils and meetings, in the pulpit and in personal lives. Who are we witnessing for? Who is at the centre of our Worship? Is it all leaven or is it about the person and purpose of our Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus warns beware of leaven!
The disciples earn themselves a rebuke, they misunderstand what they are being told, in that moment they look to themselves, they have brought with them no food, no bread, and shallowly they look to themselves, just like those Pharisees and Sadducees in fact, they look to earthly things, look to self. How they fail to see in that moment, that with them stands the great provider. They have witnessed at first hand the feeding of the 5 thousand with what amounted to nothing more than a child’s packed lunch! And yet here we read they worry about bread! Jesus says “O ye of little faith!” How could they fail to understand all he was teaching them? And yet they did! Should they not have been able to rely upon him for all earthly needs? Should they not have had faith upon him to spiritually and physically sustain them whatever there circumstances? Had they learned nothing? Here before them was the great provider yet they misunderstood his plan and purpose.
That is us too, so often. We have the scriptures, we know of its authenticity and yet we fail to live by its teaching. We live in a land of plenty where we fail to go without all we need and more, look on your television sets at home for a reminder, yet we fail to give thanks. We experience the birth of our children and grand children in all its wonder! Yet are we grateful to God for that? We find salvation through faith in Christ and we recognise all that Jesus gave for us, yet, where so often is our joy in the Lord! How often we worry about earthly trinkets, mere bread, when the glory of being united with God for all eternity is at risk!
The Lord may well have been speaking to us too when he says “O ye of little faith”
It brings about then this question that Jesus poses to his Disciples. It’s this firstly that I wish to tax you with.
Mathew ch 16 v 13 Jesus asks, “Who do people say that the son of man is?”
Firstly observe that Jesus addresses the question who do men say that I am. Not to the privileged individuals, those considering themselves to be the better than average men such as the Sadducees, nor the important men, those of position like the Pharisees. He asks who common men, ordinary people say that he is. The purpose of Jesus whilst on earth was to bring about the real possibility of salvation for all mankind, he came not to a privileged background, but to poverty something all common men were familiar with at that time, this was so that stripped of all but the basest of things man might find himself near to God. Jesus through poverty has affinity with all men. It can be said that when we have less earthly goods we have more time for God. Salvation was made available for all who would call upon the name of Jesus and confess him as saviour and Lord.
Measureless, priceless gift available to all, regardless of status or wealth, through Jesus Christ. There are none who cannot afford Christ! How sad that the world and worldly so often interfere. Like that illustration of the young man asked by his tutor to look through the window and to tell aloud what he saw, as he looked he saw people about their daily activities. The tutor then invites the young man to look through the second window, this time the window had been sprayed outside with silver paint. In time the student replied that he saw only a reflection. The tutor explains; The window is life, so often those with little see others in their lives. The silvering on the second window represents wealth, so often when we have much we see only self. This was true of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who saw only themselves their own worldly position at risk.
I want you to note too Jesus here gives himself this title “son of man” The first man as we know was called Adam and after him was the entire human race known as Man. We know through Genesis how Adam fell into sin and with such brought about separation from God. Sin from time beginning required sacrifice to put right all wrong doing. English law and indeed all civilised law is based upon this principle, if you damage someone’s property the law demands punishment and fines of monetary value are often placed on the offender to make amends, to put right what was wrong. So Jesus became our sacrifice and through him there is a possibility for all mankind to be reconciled to God. Jesus is referred to as the second Adam, the first sinned, the second lived out perfection. In Jesus this title he appoints himself, “Son of man”. This refers to what is known in law as; forgive the long word and its pronunciation, Primogeniture, which means one who holds the rights of succession. In any other family it would have referred to a Father and his first born son, and his right to inherit all that was his Fathers. In Jesus, son of man refers to the whole human race. The whole estate, that of mankind being plunged into sin, all this became the property of Jesus. Like the first born son inherits his Fathers estate in old law so Jesus takes upon himself or inherits if you like all our sin who call upon him and confess him as our saviour and Lord. Jesus took upon himself the sins of the whole world, past, present and future. Yes your sins and mine! Jesus, son of man inheritor of all our sins! It is to the name of Jesus and none other of course to which we owe and can claim our Salvation.
Who do men say that he is? This Jesus? Well as the disciples responded with answers to his question we see they attribute to Jesus every honour but that which counts. That of Gods son the promised Messiah. Few people in the world today would in truth speak ill of the Biblical and historical person they know as Jesus, these people here too spoke in high terms humanistically by suggesting that he could be perhaps John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets. These were not enemies but common people who flocked to see him and the many great deeds he did amongst them. The Muslim community speak of Jesus as being a good man. Society today recognises many great Christian organisations and all the wonderful humanitarian work that has been done by them. But sadly then like now they failed to recognise all that stands behind them, his very person! And by doing that they failed to attribute to him what was truly deserved.
It is today too possible for people to have good thoughts about Christ, and yet not the right ones, high opinions of him and yet not high enough. The correct answer is that he is “The Promised One”. “The Messiah,” The only one in whom for you and me full salvation and reconciliation with God can be found. That was the answer that the people failed to give!
Lastly then and most importantly; Mathew ch 16 v 15 Jesus asks “But who do you say that I am?”
Who do you personally say that Jesus is? That is the most important question! The most important question you will ever have to answer, the question that the Bible, the ministry, preachers and Sunday school teachers throughout the ages have sought to bring you too and you must know too that it is a question that you are on your own to answer!
The disciples to whom Jesus asks this question were better appointed to answer it than others. Many of you like me have had the advantage of Christian parents, grandparents and families, It might be fairly said that you, like me have had the benefit of great Sunday school teachers, great ministry. So we have less excuse than many to arrive at the wrong answer here.
The disciples had the personal ministry of Jesus, they saw with their own eyes the miracles he performed. You might have realistically expected them all to shout it out, yet it was Peter alone who stated “You are the Christ, the son of the living God” What an answer! Not I think that you are. Rather you are the Christ, the son of the living God No! There is no room for doubt peter is making a factual statement. He knows the identity of Jesus. And Jesus by way of reply says” Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
It is not enough for us to attribute great things to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, if we fail to attribute to him the greatest, His position as Lord and saviour. That is the contrast between Peters statement in Faith to that of the answers given by all the others. His position must be seen and stated to all whom we meet, he is king of kings and Lord of all, the author of our salvation. All other answers, all other positions, all other names we give to or compare to Jesus fall short of his mark, his highest calling as saviour and Lord. It is a name in which we must owe no shame in owning. A name which is our only legitimate boast, belonging to Jesus!
The question through scripture needs applying to each one of us personally, and it needs applying today!
Jesus asks “But who do you say that I am?”
How do you fare with your own answer to that question?
Who is Jesus to you? Has the Lord revealed to you the identity of Jesus? Do you recognise him today as your Saviour and Lord? Are you seeing him as some good man or some historical figure who has really very little to do with you?
Peter states “You are the Christ, the son of the living God” he is so certain of the identity of Jesus. He is able to state with conviction. You are the promised one, the son of the God who lives for eternity.
That is what separates Christianity from all other religion, ours is not a belief in a god who was, a god who is a block of stone or precious metal., or some piece of mans imagination. Rather we have a God who lives eternally. Jesus was sent to bring about my salvation and yours he, and only he is the promised one, Messiah the promised deliverer, sent to deliver, to save his people from their sins. He is the second part of the trinity of Father Son and Holy Spirit. The eternal God who lives forever!
That question still needs answering; Jesus asks “But who do you say that I am?”
What of Jesus then? Is he precious to you? Do we own him as saviour and Lord?
Jesus is asking you this morning “But who do you say that I am?”
May he richly bless you and reveal of himself unto you as you think about these things.