Summary: Because that will effect the way you live the rest of your life
This morning/evening I’d like to focus on one verse from our reading
16Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
I want to ask two questions:
1. What did Peter mean – and
2. What does this mean to us today.
1. What did Peter mean when he said “ You are the Christ the Son of the living God”
The word Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah – which simply means God’s anointed One
There were three types of people who would be anointed:
And in Jesus we find all three.
The Jews were expecting a Messiah who “would exercise God’s rule over God’s people” (The Message of Matthew – Michael Green p, 178)
But Jesus wasn’t the all conquering hero that the Jews were expecting – similar to Judas Maccabeus who had chased the occupying powers out in BC 167
Rather he was the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.
The last prophet in the Old Testament Malachi prophesied three hundred years before Jesus was born and said this:
1 "See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty. (Mal 3:1)
Peter recognised Jesus as the Messiah – the one sent by God.
But he recognised more. That Jesus wasn’t just human – but that he was divine too.
For a Jew like St Peter was – this was a seismic shift in his thinking – to call Jesus the Son of God.
All his life Peter had been taught that there is one God and never to worship a man as God.
It was one of the reasons which caused both the Jewish and Christian faiths to clash with Roman authority – because emperor worship was the touchstone of loyalty to the regime.
And the city where Jesus asked the disciples the question was not insignificant either. For he asked them the question in Caesarea Philippi, a city about 25 miles northeast of Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown.
Caesarea Philippi was know for its plurality of religions. In that city alone there were 14 temples dedicated to the worship of Ba’al.
And high up on a prominent mountain peak you could see the ultimate blasphemy for a Jew – a temple dedicated to the worship of Caesar.
The famous Bible commentator William Barclay put it all in perspective:
Here indeed is a dramatic picture. Here is a homeless, penniless Galilean carpenter, with twelve very ordinary men around him.
At the moment the orthodox are actually plotting and planning to destroy him as a dangerous heretic.
He stands in an area littered with the temples of Syrian gods; in a place where the ancient Greek gods looked down; in a place where the history of Israel crowded upon the minds of men; where the white marble splendour of the home of Caesar-worship dominated the landscape and compelled the eye.
And there – of all places – this amazing carpenter stands and asks men who they believe him to be, and expects the answer, the Son of God.
William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew vol. 2 from The Daily Bible Study Series, p. 135
2. So what does that mean for us today?
If Jesus is God’s anointed One and he is divine – then we need to take what he says seriously
Jesus made some startling and very exclusive claims.
For example he said: “I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6)
I often hear people say that “All religions are basically the same – they all worship the same God”.
But I DON’T agree. Because Jesus doesn’t leave us that option.
If Christianity is all about following Christ – rather than the common misconception that a Christain is simply someone who is nice and good - then universalism (that is the belief that all religions will bring us to God) is not a Christian option.
Why – because of WHO Jesus is.
In today’s Gospel reading the question is asked:
Who do YOU think Jesus is?.
There were a number of answers
1. We have the crowd’s answer in our Bible passage today.
The disciples in answering the question replied:
Some say; John the Baptist, other Elijah and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets (Mt 16:14) .
Why Elijah. The Jews steeped in the Old Testament knew the Malachian prophecy (Mal 4:5) that Elijah must come before the Messiah would return.
Why John the Baptist? Many thought John the Baptist was the return of Elijah – indeed Jesus himself confirmed this. (Mt 11:14)