Summary: Sermon from Matthew 16 exploring the identity of Jesus
Who Do You Say That I Am? (Matthew 16:13-16)
Pastor Jeff Williams
A Question Can Change Your Direction
In college, I was a member of the “honors student association.” Before you get too impressed, let me assure you that there was nothing honorable about my involvement in this organization! Basically, it gave me the opportunity to go to conferences in different cities and act like the fool that I was. One such conference was New Orleans.
While we were at the conference in New Orleans, the troop split into two groups. One group was led by a senior girl named Kelly who was a Christian. This group was interested in the antebellum homes, the above ground cemeteries, and the shrimp gumbo. The other group, a motley crew, was led by a junior guy who was the party animal of the HSA -me. This group headed for Bourbon Street every chance we got.
As the two groups were leaving the hotel one night, Kelly pulled me aside and said something that literally changed my life. She looked me dead in the eye and said, “Jeff Williams, you are a leader.” I was stunned. No one had ever called me that word before. Before my ego could enjoy it though, she asked me a question that would eventually change my whole life direction. She said, “Why do you lead the wrong way?!” I didn’t know what to say so I just shrugged. She walked away never knowing the impact she had on my life.
It had never occurred to me that I was a leader, let alone that I was leading the wrong way. I could not get the question out of my head and it is one of the reasons I started my search for God. Nearly twenty years later, I am still trying to learn all I can about how to be a leader who leads the right way. On this Thanksgiving weekend, I am so thankful that Kelly Creigh had the guts to ask me a question that literally changed my direction.
The Most Important Question Ever Asked
Over the last five weeks, we have been exploring the questions Jesus asked. Scripture records 180 questions that Jesus asked and I am going to make a bold statement this morning. I believe the question that Matthew records in the sixteenth chapter of his Gospel is the most important question Jesus asked. I’m willing to go one step further. I believe it is the most important question EVER asked! (More important than “Where’s the Beef?” or “Who shot J.R.?”) It is THE question that everyone must answer. You can not remain neutral. You can not sit on the fence. It is the question that can change your direction - “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15)
63% of Christian Students Believe What?!
According to reseJosh McDowell, 63% of students that identify themselves as Christians do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. These are not atheist or gothic students. These are students who identify themselves as Christ-Followers. When I read that stat, I knew what our focus would be at the upcoming fall retreat.
Every year we take a group of students away for a weekend to build their faith while having fun. This fall we took thirty-six junior and senior high students, and eight brave adults, to Rock River Christian Camp in Polo, IL. We spent the whole weekend looking at this “most important question ever.”
When we returned, I sent out a summary of our weekend to my email list and received a reply from a friend. After reading all that the students had learned, she wrote back that she wished that the adults could have a retreat like that too. I knew I was preaching this weekend so I asked Brian if I could change the topic and teach some of the material I shared with our students. He said yes and here we are.
Please turn in your copy of God’s Word to Matthew 16 starting in verse 13.
What’s the Word on the Street?
In the preceding chapters of Matthew 14-15, Jesus is on the move. He is teaching, preaching, healing, do miracles, and challenging the religious. He is steadily moving north. The context for this morning’s passage is as north as you can get. Caesarea Philippi was the northern most territory in Israel. It was a Gentile center for pagan worship and most inhabitants considered the emperor a “god.” Located at the foot of snow-covered Mt. Hermon, this area was a beautiful place to rest and pray. It was at Caesarea Philippi that he asked his disciples two questions that change the course of history.
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, ‘Who do the people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13)