Summary: Jesus teaches the religious leaders, that what we believe about him does make a difference, he is both Christ and Lord.
This morning we finish our series on Jesus’ “Teachings on the way to the cross,” because we are almost to the cross. This coming Thursday night is Jesus’ arrest and the morning of Good Friday is Jesus’ crucifixion. Next Sunday we gather for the most important day in the calendar for us as Christian believers, the resurrection of Jesus.
As we get into Jesus’ last teaching let me ask you this, does it matter what you believe about Jesus, or worded another way, does it matter who you believe Jesus is? I think most of us here recognize that we need to believe in Jesus, after all we have passages like John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But does it matter what we believe about Jesus, or who he is? In my conversations with people over the years who don’t really practice their faith, I have heard comments like this quite often, “I believe in God and Jesus and all that stuff, and I think that is all God wants,” and usually the conversation is over. They don’t want to talk about their faith or beliefs. I am glad people claim to believe in Jesus, but what do they believe about Jesus? Or even better, does it really matter? Do we believe that Jesus was just a Rabbi or teacher like many of the Jewish faith, or do we believe Jesus was a prophet like the Muslims, or perhaps that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, or do we believe he was even more than that?
On that Palm Sunday road almost 2000 years ago, as Jesus rode from Bethany over the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem on a colt, the crowd believed something about Jesus. There was a reason they laid their cloaks on the ground along with branches of palm trees shouting: Matthew 21:9 "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!"
Luke 19:38 "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
They did these things because they believed Jesus was the Messiah, a new king descended from the line of King David, and as the OT prophesies suggested, he would be a king who would rule over the nation of Israel forever. Laying down their cloaks and branches was a ceremony for a king. The crowd cheered on their king who they hoped would help alleviate their suffering under the occupation of the Roman Empire.
The religious leaders believed something about Jesus too. They believed he was a fraud, and a threat to their religious traditions. Jesus actually placed himself on level with God by forgiving people’s sins and he routinely violated the Sabbath day by healing people. Jesus was a rabble-rouser and they planned his death.
Jesus’ disciples believed something him too. One day, early in his ministry, Jesus confronted his disciples with this question, “who do the crowds say that I am.” In other words, who do the crowds believe I am? The disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life." But then Jesus got to the heart of the matter and he asked the disciples point blank, "But what about you? Who do you say I am?" Jesus wanted to know not if they believed in him, but who they believed he was. Peter answered on behalf of all the disciples, "You are the Christ of God."