Summary: First in a five week series about Jesus Christ. I trust this series will give us a new appreciation for who Jesus Christ is and what He has done.
The Identity of Christ
Text: Matthew 16:13-17
I. The common question—Whom do men say that I am?
Some say Jesus was a prophet. Others say He was a great teacher. Religions of the world admit that He was a good man. But really, who is this Jesus which is called Christ?
“You can speak of Jesus as prophet, holy man, teacher, or spiritual leader, and few will object. But speak of Him as Son of God, divine, of the same nature as the Father, and people will line up to express their disapproval. A billion Muslims will say: “Prophet, yes. God, no!” Jews scattered around the world will say: “Teacher, yes. Messiah, no!” Liberal Protestants and religionists of various stripes will say: “Exemplary man, yes. Divine, no!” Who do you say Jesus is?” (footnote 1)
Is Jesus Christ Divine? Or is He just a good moral teacher? Did He claim to be divine? If so, how can we verify His claims?
C.S. Lewis writes in his book, Mere Christianity, an argument he calls the trilogy. (footnote 2) It is a series of logical questions that help to answer the question of the divinity of Christ.
The question is given “Who is Jesus of Nazareth?” C.S. Lewis wrote, “ I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.”
Did Christ claim to be God?
(John 10:30-33) I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
(John 5:17-18) But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
(John 14:8-9) Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?
The answer is yes, Jesus Christ did claim to be God. There are two options about His claim to be God.
1. His claims are true, or
2. His claims are false.
If His claims are true there are two options:
1. Accept His claims and believe that He is God.
2. Reject His claims
If His claims are false there are two option:
1. He knew they were false—He was a liar, not a good moral teacher. He was worse than a liar—this type of false claim would make Him a very evil man. He is claiming that He is the only way to Heaven and the only access to God. For a man to make such claims falsely, he would have to be a very wicked man indeed! If His claims were false and He knew they were false then He would have been a hypocrite because He told others to be honest. He would have been extremely wicked because he told people to trust Him with the eternal destiny of their souls. He would have also been a fool, because he willingly died for a lie.
2. He thought His claims were true. This would make him a very deluded man. For a man to falsely think of himself as God and make the claims that Jesus made, he would have to be completely insane, or mentally imbalanced.
“…as we look at the life of Christ, we see no evidence of the abnormality and imbalance we find in a deranged person. Rather we find the greatest composure under pressure. At his trial before Pilate, when his very life was at stake, he was calm and serene.” (footnote 3)
Seeing no evidence that Christ was a liar or a lunatic leaves us with only one other option—that He is who He says He is. He is Lord. He is God. He is the eternal Jehovah who became flesh and dwelt among us. There are no other options remaining.
II. The crucial question—Whom say ye that I am?
After Jesus asked his disciples who others say that He is, He turned to them and asked them the question, “But whom do ye say that I am?” He was asking for a confession of true faith in Him. He is asking us the same thing today. Who is He to you today? Is he your Lord? Or is He merely a lifeguard you call upon in times of trouble? Does He have Lordship over your life? Is He your king? Or do you maintain control over you life? Who is this Jesus to you? Who is He to me?