Summary: Ultimately, each person must answer for themselves the question of who Jesus really is.
Matthew 16: 13 – 20
Introduction: The old childhood game, “HERE’S THE CHURCH. HERE’S THE STEEPLE. OPEN THE DOORS AND SEE ALL THE PEOPLE” took on new meaning for me while I was pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church in South Bend, Indiana.
I had just sat down to enjoy my lunch when the phone rang. I answered, “Hello.” / “Rev. Bailey?” the tiny voice questioned. / “Yes,” I answered. “Can I help you?” / “Yes! Can you tell me how to unlock the doors at the church?” / “With a key,” I responded. “Why do you want to know?” I asked. / “Because I’m locked inside and can’t get out and want to know who is going to unlock the door,” She shouted. / The church had the unusual feature of having only key operated, double-cylinder deadbolts on every exterior door. There was absolutely no way out once the doors were locked unless you possessed a key. In my haste to leave, I had neglected to check to see if the building was empty and had locked one of the preschool parents and her 2 small children into the building.
As a Pastor, I’ve been asked many questions; but, I think that one has to be my all time favorite!
In the last several weeks, we have experienced stories of Jesus’ miracles: feeding the 5000, him walking on water, and the encounter with the Canaanite woman.
I. This morning’s text begins with a simple question. Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
A. If that question were asked today, Jesus would probably be seen as a criminal. / the FDA for turning water into wine without a license / the EPA for killing fig trees / the AMA fro practicing medicine without a license / the NEA for teaching without a certificate / OSHA for walking on water without a lifejacket.
B. You can speak of Jesus as a prophet, holy man, teacher, or spiritual leader and few will object. Speak of Him as Son of God, divine, of the same nature as the Father, and people will line up to express their disapproval. Muslims will say: “prophet, yes. God, no!” / Jews will say, “Teacher, yes. Messiah, no!” / Some more liberal theologians, “Exemplary man, yes. Divine, no!”
C. The disciples answer: “John the Baptist – a godly man of their recent history reincarnated to deliver a message to the people from God.” / “Elijah – a voice of prophecy – Malachi 4:5 “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great & dreadful day of the Lord comes.” / Jeremiah – legends linking him to the coming of God – a great man.
II. “But what about you? --- who do you say that I am?” Now Jesus, your getting a little personal here! Jesus brings the question to a sharply personal challenge.
A. “But what about you, my followers, my friends, my co-workers, --- “Who do you say that I am? --- a question in all likelihood followed by an ear-shattering silence. --- Were the disciples afraid to answer because they did not know what Jesus was trying to do? Did they not answer because they were afraid of looking stupid?
B. Could each of us here at this moment tell who we believe Jesus to be without reciting somebody else’s words? Some say he is a myth, a teacher, a prophet. --- But what about you? Contemporary theologian might say, Why, you are the eschatological manifestation of the imageo dei.