Summary: Who do you say Jesus is by your words, your actions and your attitude?
I have been known as many things during my 45 years on the planet. There are quite a few that I won’t be able to tell you this morning! But here’s a list of the more suitable ones.
Husband, father, brother, son, paster, minister, uncle, production planner, purchasing officer, manager. I am also known for my humour (whether you think it’s funny or not), my quick reflexes, my short stature and even for my coffee habit. I am also known for my faith in Jesus. And honestly, there are probably many more that I don’t know about (maybe even some good ones)!
Different people might know Jesus in different ways, too. Some may only know his name as a swear word. Others might say that he was a good man, a prophet, a teacher or even as a bit of a crazy rebel. There are others who call him Lord and Saviour.
This morning we have a nice opportunity to take a closer look at just a few verses in the gospel of Matthew. We often have to take a brief overview of a large chunk of scripture. Let’s take a verse by verse look at it now.
v13: When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
The word region is more literally “the parts” of Ceasarea Philippi (which is around 25 miles north of the sea of Galillee). So Jesus and his disciples travelled 25 miles to be in parts of Ceasarea Philippi. When they were there, Jesus asks who do people (or literally men) say the Son of Man is? We know that Jesus often referred to himself as the son of man, so it is clear that Jesus is referring to himself in this question. If you also check Mark and Luke they have the question simply as who I am.
Jesus wanted to know who other people, other men, other jews thought he was. What were they saying. Just to be clear, Jesus isn’t condoning gossip here. He is asking what the disciples have heard along the way.
Who do “they” say I am?
v14 The disciples respond with some fascinating reports yet all point to affirming that Jesus is a prophet. Some say John the Baptist, as did king Herod (from Matthew 14:2). A resurrected John the Baptist. Perhaps people couldn’t believe that John’s death at Herod’s hand was the end of it and there had to be some sort of recovery. Other’s said that they thought Jesus was Elijah in fulfilment of Malachi 4:6. It’s only in Matthew that Jeremiah is mentioned. Some theologians suggest that this is due to the doom and gloom that Jesus talks about in terms of the future of the nation. Others suggest that Jeremiah was a typical prophet. Whatever the reason, some people thought Jesus was either Jeremiah or another of the prophets. The rumour mill was certainly going nuts about him but interestingly, there is no mention of others considering Jesus as Messiah or Christ. Even after the miraculous feedings of 5000 and 4000. Even after the other miracles that Jesus had done, or all of the teaching that he had taught. Their eyes could not see Jesus like that.
v15 In verse 15, Jesus asks the disciples two more questions. What about you blokes? Who do you reckon I am?….well something like that anyway. The you is emphatic. If you were to write it down, the word you would be in italics or bold. But, what about YOU? Who do YOU say I am?
The question has been turned in it’s head. Before it was all about other people but now it’s personal.
I was away on a retreat at the start of last week. During one of the devotion times, we were asked a question about “how do we rejoice always”. One of the other people answered it as a theoretical question. As in “what steps must we do to rejoice always”. I took it far more personally. I thought of it as “how do I rejoice always in my life”. Questions become hard when we look at them from a personal perspective. Jesus just made the conversation very personal for the disciples. Who do you say I am. What do you tell people when they ask about me?
v16 We only hear of one response to Jesus’ question. We actually don’t know if the other disciples responded to Jesus. There are lots of theories and arguments about the next few verses. Some argue that Peter was answering for all of the disciples….as a spokesperson for them. I can’t see that this group operated in that way. They travelled together. They slept, they ate, they talked as a group. When the disciples were asked a question from Jesus, I imagine that all of them get talking. For whatever reason, we only hear about Peter’s. Again there are lot’s of theological arguments as well as church history arguments. Some people aren’t keen on the idea that Peter was to be the rock that the church was built on. It seems pretty clear here. Peter’s response was that Jesus is the Christ (or Messiah), the Son of the Living God. No question about what Peter is thinking is there!? If we take a sneak peek at next weeks passage we find Jesus explaining what the truth of being the Christ looks like. Not the preconceived notions that Peter and the other disciples carried. We could even look at the beginning of chapter 17 to see the transfiguration of Jesus. Again confirming that he is indeed the Son of the Living God.