Summary: Some wrong answers, and the right answer, to the most important question of our life. Truths revealed by God versus a misplaced zeal.
WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?
The most important question in the whole of our life concerns the Person of Christ. Who is He? What is He to us? Our answer to this question will determine what we believe, how we live, and where we will go when we die.
1. Jesus asked, “WHO DO MEN SAY THAT I THE SON OF MAN AM?” (Matthew 16:13).
Throughout the Gospels our Lord’s favourite name for Himself is: “the Son of man.” It is an expression which is found in Psalm 8. It is a title which emphasises His manhood. It is also a name which identifies Him with Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7:13-14).
The title “Son of man” speaks of a restoration of man’s rule over the earth: a reign which was forfeited by Adam when he disobeyed God, and which is re-established by Christ. Jesus was asking who people thought Him to be.
2. SOME WRONG ANSWERS (Matthew 16:14).
(i) John the Baptist.
Despite belonging to a sect that did not believe in resurrection, Herod’s conscience must have got the better of him after ordering the execution of John the Baptist at a birthday party. When he heard of Jesus’ preaching he imagined it was John, raised from the dead (Mark 6:16)!
There was an opinion abroad that Elijah was going to make a physical return to earth. This was based on Malachi’s prophecy (Malachi 4:5-6). Jesus applied these words in a figurative way to John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14).
(iii) Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
Really people did not know what to think of Jesus. It is the same now: some say He is a good man; some say He is a prophet; some even say that He is a fraud, or deluded. Whatever people may imagine, they cannot have a neutral opinion of Jesus!
3. BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK OF JESUS? (Matthew 16:15).
4. Peter answered, “YOU ARE THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD” (Matthew 16:16).
(i) The title Christ, or Messiah, means “the anointed One.”
In Old Testament times there were three public offices into which someone might be anointed: prophet, priest and king. As the anointed of God, Jesus is all three.
(a) As Prophet, He reveals to us the will of God for our salvation.
(b) As Priest He offers Himself as the sacrifice for sins, making continual prayers on our behalf.
(c) As King He rules us, defends us; restrains His people’s enemies, and conquers those who refuse His rule.
(ii) Jesus is the Son of the living God.
In His humility, Jesus viewed Himself as the Son of man. In a moment of inspiration, however, Simon Peter could see that Jesus is also the Son of the living God!
5. THESE TRUTHS ARE ONLY REVEALED BY GOD (Matthew 16:17).
Not only should we know what the church teaches about Jesus, but we should know Him for ourselves. Peter’s confession was not merely the recitation of a creed: it was an expression of an inner belief and conviction which had taken hold of his whole life. Thus it should be with us: let us listen to the words of God in the Bible, for they testify of Jesus; but above all, let us embrace these truths and possess them as our own.
6. THE ROCK (Matthew 16:18).
It was at this point that Simon was given his new name of “Peter”, which is a masculine variation of the Greek word for Rock. Jesus declared of what Peter had said, “On this rock I will build my church.” The Rock upon which the Church is built is Jesus Christ (Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:4-8).
7. A MISPLACED ZEAL (Matthew 16:22-23).
Once we establish a relationship with the true and living God through our Lord Jesus Christ, we need to go on living by faith. Peter made a good profession of faith, and he was reassured that his faith was a gift from God. Peter now made the mistake of wanting to prevent Jesus from going to the Cross, and Jesus had to rebuke His Apostle in the sharpest of terms!
BE WARNED: when we confess Christ, His enemy is never far away, seeking to lead us away from right ideas about God.