Summary: This sermon explains the importance of developing a proper understanding of Jesus identity.

What do you believe about Jesus Christ? Does it matter what you believe about Him? Many people tell us that if you believe a certain way you are intolerant. Others say it does not matter what you believe as long as you believe. Instead of seeking man’s opinion I want to look at what Jesus had to say about this subject.

In Matthew 16 we find Jesus words on this important question.

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea

Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who

do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’’ So they

said, "Some say John the Baptist,some Elijah,

and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’’ He

said to them, "But who do you say that I am?’’

And Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the

Christ, the Son of the living God.’’ Jesus

answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon

Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed

this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. "And

I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this

rock I will build My church, and the gates of

Hades shall not prevail against it. "And I will

give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and

whatever you bind on earth will be bound in

heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be

loosed in heaven.’’ (Mt. 16:13-19 NKJV)

In this text Jesus was nearing the cross. He had spent almost three years with His disciples teaching and modeling ministry. He knew he was about to die and leave this world. However, He wanted to be sure that His disciples had understood the vital lessons He had taught. Among the lessons he shared was the truth of His identity. He could not expect His disciples to be effective spiritual leaders if they did not discern His true identity. Within this context he asked them “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (vs. 13 NIV) Jesus began with an easy question and moved to the difficult question. After questioning the disciples about people’s beliefs he moved to question them about their beliefs. He said “But what about you…who do you say I am?” (vs. 15 NIV) The answer to this question mattered to Jesus. There are some facts that are not a matter of life or death. If you do not know the names of the Presidents you can survive. If you cannot explain the chemical make up of water you can survive. If you cannot explain the inner workings of a computer you can survive. However, from this pasage we learn that it is essential that you understand the identity of Jesus.

Look at our text. In this text we discover it is important what you believe about Jesus. I want to share three important truths from the text.

I. The first truth is that it is possible to be close but wrong about Jesus.

-If you are playing golf and the ball stops one inch from the cup, does that count?

-If a wide receiver drops the ball in the end zone does that count as a touchdown?

-If a boy stops a kiss one inch from his girls face, does that count as a kiss?

Even so, being close in your opinion of Jesus does not count.

Ill- Karl Barth, a famous theologian, was on a streetcar one day in Basel, Switzerland, where he lectured. A tourist to the city climbed on and sat down next to Barth. The two men started chatting with each other. "Are you new to the city?" Barth inquired. "Yes," said the tourist. "Is there anything you would particularly like to see in this city?" asked Barth. "Yes; he said, "I’d love to meet the famous theologian Karl Barth. Do you know him?" Barth replied, "Well, as a matter of fact, I do. I give him a shave every morning." The tourist got off the streetcar quite delighted. He went back to his hotel saying to himself, "I met Karl Barth’s barber today." That tourist missed the point!

(Contributed to Sermon Central by: Jeff Hughes)

In this text we discover that people are sometimes close but wrong about Jesus. The people in Jesus’ day had a number of worthy opinions of Him. They compared Him to John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah. They were sincere but sincerely wrong. A common saying illustrates this point. “Close does not count except in horse shoes and hand grenades.” In playing a game of horse shoes you get points if you are close to the pin. If you are near a hand grenade when it explodes it will kill you. Close counts in some disciplines but it does not count in your opinion of Jesus.

Ill- Understanding Jesus identity is a growth process but it is essential to discipleship. A Sunday School teacher was attempting to teach her young students the true meaning of Easter. "Why do we celebrate Easter?" she asked. When the children replied ’because of the Easter bunny,’ Easter eggs, candy, spring, etc., she said, "No, those are Easter traditions and symbols, but what is the REASON why we celebrate Easter? What happened at the very first Easter?" A little girl raised her hand and said, "Easter celebrates Jesus coming out of the tomb." "Yes!" said the teacher, excited and relieved that finally the correct answer had surfaced. Encouraged, she prompted, "Jesus arose from the tomb, and what does He do for us?" The youngster replied, "He looks to see if he can see his shadow, and if He can, he goes back in for another six weeks."

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