What exactly do you believe about Jesus? In my seminary days, our first semester in Systematic Theology dealt with that question. Our professor described Jesus as “the proleptic, salvific, hidden appearance of the eschatological kingdom of God”. Did you get that? Take notes; there might be a test at the end of this. “The proleptic, salvific, hidden appearance of the eschatological kingdom of God”. On our way out of class, the words of our gospel in mind, we chuckled at the whole thing: “Jesus said to them, 'Who do YOU say that I am?' Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the proleptic, salvific, hidden appearance of the eschatological kingdom of God’. And Jesus answered him and said, 'WHAT???'"
Malcolm Muggeridge, a longtime skeptic, became wonderfully reflective following his conversion. In his book, Jesus Rediscovered, writes: "Beneath the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, a silver star marks the alleged precise spot where Christ was born. A stone slab nearby is supposed to mark the exact site of the manger wherein he lay. The Holy Land is littered with such shrines, divided up like African territories in the old colonialist days, between the different sects and denominations the Greeks, the Armenians, the Copts, the Latins, etc.—and often a cause of rancor among them. Most of the shrines are doubtless fraudulent, some in dubious taste, and none to my liking. Yet one may note, as the visitors come and go, ranging from the devout to the inanely curious, that almost every face somehow lights up a little."
There is something about Jesus. And the question to the disciples comes again: "Who do YOU say that I am?" You must answer. And you. And you. And you and you. I don’t imagine your response will include the words "proleptic" or "salvific" or "eschatological". My prayer is that, with Simon Peter, you can say with every fiber of your being, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." OYBT Mt. 16:13-20
a. Jesus and the disciples arrive at Caesrea Phillipi, a pagan territory, near a grotto (cave) devoted to the worship of the Greek diety Pan; Herod also dedicated a temple for the worship of Caesar there. Thus it is hardly an expected site for a divine revelation. The city is 25 mi. from the Sea of Galilee and about 1700 feet higher in altitude, hence the need to stop along the way.
b. Matthew tells us of a little interval for quiet reflection away from the crowds—a significant time, when it will be made clear to the disciples who Jesus is, and what it means in terms of rejection, suffering and death. They will also learn a bit about discipleship.
II. WHO DO PEOPLE SAY THAT THE SON OF MAN IS? (Mark, Luke: I AM)
a. The text implies the disciples answer instantly. This may be true. But before we move on, let’s travel to Caesarea Phillippi and sit at Jesus’ feet as he asks you and I the question. It’s time to play Truth or Consequences. What do people say about me?
b. Ever been asked this question? If so, you appreciate an awkward situation. Do I tell the good and bad? What if he/she doesn’t like what he hears? Ingoring the truth is dishonest—if I share the truth I am trustworthy—and friendless.
c. The disciples share what they’ve heard—John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets. Their answers reveal they are listening, but they share no critical remarks?
III. BUT WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?
a. It’s no surprise that Peter responds first. Lovable, awkward Peter. A man with a remarkable flair for the inappropriate. I wonder what the eleven are thinking as he begins to speak. He does well, however unlikely, saying You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
b. Rulers and kings in the pagan world were given the title son of the gods. Peter knows the difference between son of the gods and The Son of the Living God. Jesus responds with “Blessed are you, Simon Bar (son of)-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
[There is something about Jesus. And the question to the disciples is "Who do YOU say that I am?" You must answer. And you. And you. And you and you.]
IV. IT’S 2017—WHO DO PEOPLE SAY JESUS IS?
a. Islam: prophet sent by God superceded by Mohammed; not God incarnate, Messiah, just a man
b. Judaism: rejects the idea of Jesus being God, or a person of a Trinity, or a mediator to God. Judaism also holds that Jesus is not the Messiah
c. Buddism: Wise and enlightened man who taught similar things to the Buddha.
d. Hinduism: Incarnation of God akin to Krishna, or wise man.
e. Jehovah’s Witnesses: Son of God, Word of God, God's first creation, Archangel Michael.
f. Mormonism: Son of God, Savior, originally one of the spirit beings that all humans used to be. Has a physical body.
g. Unitarian Universalism: Great teacher, faith-healer, "incarnation of God's love.", no official teaching
V. PETER, AND THE KEYS TO THE KINGDOM?
a. Porters appointed to attend the temple guard all avenues leading to it, open and shut the outer gates and attend them for state, service and to direct and instruct those going to worship in the courts of the sanctuary in the propriety they are to observe:
i. to encourage the apprehensive, (2) reject sinners and the unclean, and (3) guard against thieves and other enemies to the house of God. In insinuation to this office, ministers are said to have the keys to the kingdom of heaven committed to them (Mt. 16:19), that they may admit and exclude according to the law of Christ.
ii. Those called to this service are men of valor (v.6), strong, able (v.7-8), wise counsellors (v.14) who, using the office of deacon well and giving proof of more than ordinary wisdom, purchased a good degree, and was preferred from the gate to the council-board (1 Tim. 3:13).
b. Following this, Jesus charges the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
[There is something about Jesus. And the question to the disciples comes again: "Who do YOU say that I am?" You must answer. And you. And you. And you and you. I don’t imagine your response will include the words "proleptic", "salvific" or "eschatological". My prayer is that, with Simon Peter, you will say with every fiber of your being, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."]
VI. PROCLAIMING CHRIST TO THE LOST
a. I’ve had the good fortune to study under brilliant professors at Evangelical Seminary. These humble servants of God had a single mission—to help me learn to know God better.
b. Through their testimony, example, commitment and resolve they helped a one-time diesel mechanic and bearing salesman understand the principles of systematic theology. My blessing comes with responsibility—to help others grow in the grace that I received.
c. There is nothing more important to me than fulfilling my obligation before Christ. As Peter was given the keys to the kingdom, I have been given the joy of sharing the Gospel with saints and sinners as He allows.
d. You have the same opportunity. Please do not ignore the call of Christ to bring others into the kingdom. There is no higher calling in this life. Amen.
1. Leininger, David. “What Do You Believe about Jesus?”, Christian Globe Illustrations,
4. Keener, Craig S. “Commentary, Matthew 16”, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, IVP Academic, Downers Grove, 1993, pp. 89f
5. An American game show (1940-1998). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth_or_Consequences