Summary: Who do You Say Jesus Is? this Is a very Personal Question. The question Is not who you think Jesus is, or what the world tells you who Jesus is, but rather who is He to you. Only God can reveal the true Jesus to you. Has He been revealed to you?
Jesus asked a very deep question in today’s reading. He asked: “Who do you say that I am? That question is more relevant today than it ever was before. For many people, they see Jesus as a “Get out of Hell Free card.” They know all about Jesus, they know the Sunday School answers, they have the head knowledge, but there is no heart knowledge. They desire no change in their lives. There is no desire to really know Jesus, but only want use Him to escape hell. Jesus had this to say about such people (quoting from Isaiah 29:13):
Matthew 15:8–9 (NKJV) ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
People want to go to heaven, but just leave Jesus and religion out of it. The tragedy in all of this, they have missed out in just who Jesus is.
Matthew 16:13–17 (NKJV)
In an online-poll taken a number of years ago, the question was asked: “What is the key to getting into heaven?” and those who answered according to the following choices:
-- Living a good life 60.5%
-- Having connections to someone at the top 32.5%
-- Helping old ladies cross the street 2.2%
-- Slipping St. Peter a large tip 1.7%
-- Having a strong letter of reference 1.6%
-- Making a deal with the devil 1.0%
-- Telling a really good lie 0.6%
-- Total votes: 8,602
Then the question was asked, “Are you going to heaven?”
-- Yes 91.2%
-- No 8.8%
--Total votes: 10,284 
I did some research on-line and recent polls by the Pew Research Center, Barna Group and Lifeway Research are all about the same. Only little over half of Americans (56%) believe in the God of the Bible. (according Pew, April 2018) According to Lifeway Research only 40% believe they will be sent to hell if they do not personally Trust Jesus. Many other statistics indicate that even among “so-called” Christians, that knowledge of the holy and things pertaining to Jesus and salvation is very limited.
So Jesus asked the question, “who do you think I am?” Let’s put that question into context.
Matthew 16:13a (NKJV) When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi,
Jesus had taken His disciples away from the crowds, perhaps to be able to give them some personal instruction. Maybe Jesus also wanted away from the Jewish crowed that followed them everywhere. So Jesus went to what is perhaps the most pagan place in all of Israel. At the extreme north end of the ancient borders of Israel in the area of the tribe of Dan, was city built to honor Caesar. Philip, who was the tetrarch of those northern districts, had his name added so as to not confuse this city the with the other city of Caesarea located on the coast.
Ellen and I had the opportunity to visit this region almost 3 years ago on our trip to the Holy Lands. Caesarea Philippi was about 25 mile north of the sea of Galilee, right at the head-water and springs that marked the beginning of the Jordan River. This city was once the center for Baal worship. There were various pagan temples in the city, most notable was the pagan shine to the Greek god of Pan. Pan was the half man-half goat god of nature. The shine to Pan was located in front of a large cave like opening revealing a very deep pit know as the gates of hades, or the underworld. This place is so much like the world today, they worship everything but have no clue as to who Jesus is.
It was here that Jesus talked about His church and the gates of Hades or Hell (depending on your translation) shall not prevail against it (verse 18).
Matthew 16:13 (NKJV) 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?”
What Jesus is asking was very similar to the polls taken by all these different research groups, determining the religious climate of America.
Who does the world say Jesus is? This is important because many people cling to what the opinion polls say. What the culture tell them, they assume to be right and they go along with the world’s opinion. Truth has very little bearing on what the world sees and does.
Matthew 16:14 (NKJV) So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
This the Jewish response. They saw Jesus as a prophet and there had been 400 years of silence, since the last prophet, Malachi wrote the last book of the Old Testament. Then came John the Baptist who was beheaded by Herold Antipas the tetrarch. Herold thought Jesus was John the Baptist risen form the dead.