Matthew 16: 3-16: “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, ‘Whom do men say that I am?’ And they said, ‘Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He saith unto them, ‘But whom say ye that I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’”
Mark 6:14-16: “And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, ‘That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.’ Others said, “That it is Elijah.” And others said, ‘That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets.’ But when Herod heard thereof, he said, “It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.”
Who is Jesus Christ?
This is an important question, asked by Jesus Himself in the gospels to His closest disciples. The world has a lot to say about Jesus Christ, but the ultimate question is, “Whom do you say Jesus Christ is?”
Some Say John the Baptist…
John the Baptist was, in Jesus’ day and prior to Jesus’ coming, the most powerful preacher in the Middle East, and regarded by the people of Judea as a prophet. Following John’s execution, many people in Judea and in the greater area of Palestine, believed that Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected. Even King Herod stated that Jesus was John resurrected thanks to the miracles that Jesus performed and the following that he had attained.
Just as Jesus did later, John the Baptist had performed miracles, and attracted quite a following, even to the point of having disciples himself. But there is another reason that people said Jesus was John the Baptist. Jesus and John were relatives, cousins. Being from the same family, it is very likely that Jesus and John looked very similar.
This writer has quite a large number of cousins, thanks to my parents both being from large families. At least two of my cousins looked much like me, especially when we were all very young; having the same red hair, the same blue eyes, and the same faces full of freckles. It is entirely possible for cousins to have strong, strong resemblances. It is possible that Jesus was mistaken for John and coupling that with the many miracles, and the preaching with authority, it is easy to see why people thought Jesus to be John the Baptist. Further confusion comes from the fact that neither John nor Jesus had a home, nor a place to live. Instead, both Jesus and John wandered in the wilderness, preaching in various towns, and having to either sleep under the stars, or borrow a friend’s house for rest.
Some say Elijah…
The prophet Elijah was a prophet powerful in word and deed before God. The books of 1st and 2nd Kings record how Elijah was a miracle worker, touching people and raising them for the dead; praying that the heavens wouldn’t rain for three-and-a-half years; calling down fire from heaven to show forth the power of God on three separate occasions; and eventually, being taken miraculously to heaven without dying, being taken up in a fiery chariot.
Elijah is probably most remembered for standing up against King Ahab and his wife, Queen Jezebel, when these two idolatrous rulers dominated Israel, the Northern Kingdom, some 100 years after Israel and Judah split into two kingdoms. Elijah not only stood and preached against the King and Queen, but defied them insomuch that following a show of who the true God in Israel was on Mt. Carmel, Elijah ordered the execution of the 850 false prophets of Queen Jezebel.
In the same way, Jesus Christ preached with authority, calling into question and defying the words and the unnecessary religious rules of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Zealots, and the others of the Sanhedrin of Judea. Just as with Jesus and John above, Elijah also wandered, being forced on two occasions to sleep by a brook, and be fed supernaturally. Further, Elijah traveled from place to place, preaching and teaching the will and words of God. With these in mind, it is easy to see how Jesus could have been mistaken for Elijah.
Some say Jeremiah or One of the Other Prophets…
As with Elijah, John, and Jesus, the prophet Jeremiah was a teacher and preacher of God’s word, and he preached with authority. He also preached against the false beliefs of the kings of Judah, and the false gods that many Israelites of his time bowed down to and worshipped. As with Jesus, Elijah, and John, Jeremiah was forced to move from place to place, preached around Jerusalem and Judah, and, as with John the Baptist, was imprisoned for speaking against the government and the king of his day.
Further, as with the above, Jeremiah’s life was threatened and in danger. The same can be said of just about all of the prophets in the Old Testament. At one time or another, the lives of Elisha, Samuel, Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jonah, Hosea, Amos, and the rest were threatened merely for speaking out against the wicked practices of the rulers of their days.
The prophet Daniel on two occasions faced execution, and even had sentence passed on him with his being cast into the Lion’s Den. Samuel – though highly respected by Kings Saul and David – felt the threat of death from the Philistines and even from King Saul when Saul was hunting for David. Elisha faced death from two of King Ahab’s sons. In the same way, Jesus was threatened with death from his own family, friends, and from the rulers of his day. When we think about these along with the many miracles that he performed, it is easy to see why many thought Jesus was as one of the prophets of old, come back to challenge the people to return to God, and call into question the practices of the rulers of his day.
Thou Art the Christ, the Son of the Living God!
The thing that separates Jesus Christ from the rest, is the fact of Jesus’ own words. None of the prophets ever said “I am the good shepherd” (see John 10:11-14), “I am the bread of life” (John 6.35-51), “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11.25), “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8.58), and “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the father, but by me” (John 14.6).
While each and every prophet of the Old Testament pointed toward God, Jesus pointed toward God the Father, and Himself (He is God).
Every truly Christian prophet since Jesus Christ has also pointed toward Jesus Christ. Jesus proved that He is God not only through the miracles and through His words, but through His sacrifice on the cross and, most important, through his resurrection from the dead.
Every religious founder in every religion of the world, from Siddhartha Gautama of Buddhism, to Mohammed of Islam, to Lao Tsu of Taoism, to Confucius, to the founders of Hinduism and Shintoism, each and every one is still in his tomb. Only Jesus Christ’s tomb is empty. That is because Jesus Christ lives!
Whom Does the World Say Jesus Is?
If one takes a look at today’s modern world, when the subject of Jesus Christ comes up, any number of answers and responses are given. For example:
Jesus was just a good teacher. Jesus was another form of Buddha. Jesus was a teacher of liberation theology, a rebel. Jesus was a great prophet and godly teacher. Jesus Christ is in heaven, but Mary, his mother, is greater and a co-mediatrix. Jesus and the devil are brothers.
The replies are nearly endless. Here in Japan, this writer happened to see a television show one Easter talking about the life of Jesus Christ. The program was hosted by two rather famous television personalities here in Japan, and included quotes from the Bible, as well as the musings of Mahatma Gandhi, the Pope, political leaders, athletes, and celebrities world-wide.
The program was positive in its presentation of Jesus Christ, right up to the point of his death. However, this is where the show ended. “Jesus was crucified and he is dead,” the male TV personality lamented, “but His legacy and memory live on in our hearts and minds.”
The problem is, this view of Jesus Christ is false. This television program, for all of its good points and positive messages wrongly deleted the single most important aspect of the life of Jesus Christ: That He is Risen, that He lives, and that He sits on the right hand of God the Father in heaven. The end of this show comes as no surprise. This is how the world views Jesus Christ; He lived a great life, changed the lives of many who lived in his day and time, walked the earth doing good, and performed many miracles, but He is dead, and that’s the end of things.
But, what if Jesus Christ is risen, indeed? Then the world has a great problem, because no longer is Jesus bound by the human, earthly elements: He becomes exactly who he said he is, and whom Christians all over the world believe him to be: God come down from heaven, who dwelt among us for a time, and now, has ascended to heaven where he waits to bring all of his followers home.
If Jesus Christ really is risen, then that makes sin a serious thing, and hell and the lake of fire a frightening reality. To the world, if Jesus Christ is risen, then it changes the way the unbelieving world has to look at themselves.
No longer can they live and let live; now, they must contemplate eternal matters, and, to a dying world, it is just too painful, too hard, and causes too many personal problems. This is why the unbelieving world must scoff, must disbelieve the empty cross and the empty tomb. This is why Jesus, when described by the unbelieving world, must be kept in his tomb, even to the point of using the world’s media outlets to cause and give rise to doubts about Jesus Christ (The DaVinci Code, The Gospel of Judas, The Last Temptation of Jesus Christ, and The Lost Tomb of Jesus, just to name a few).
Conclusion: But Whom Say Ye that I am?
This is the most important question for today’s world, and each and every individual must answer this question for themselves and themselves alone. When Peter stated that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, He was right on target. And later, Peter, as one of the members of the Early Church, was instrumental in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This question comes to you, reader, and it is up to you to answer. If Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of your life, then I have good news: You will spend eternity in heaven with him. If Jesus Christ is the Risen King of Glory, then you will reign with him. If Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, then when you stand before God to give an account of your life, Jesus Christ will be right there with you, pleading with the Father that you belong to him (Hebrews 9.27, 1 John 1.9).
However, if Jesus is something other than God, the bad news is that on the Day of Judgment, he will be your judge, your jury, and your executioner. If you reject him as Lord and Savior, and die in your sins, you will spend forever in a place of horrid, wretched torment that was never meant for you in the first place. The good news is that Jesus Christ waits to come into your life, and show you that he is King, Lord, and very God. If you really and truly seek him, He will come to you, and He will not cast you out (Matthew 7.7-11, John 6.37).
Jesus Christ today!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank you for this day, and we praise you for Jesus Christ. I praise you, Lord, that Jesus Christ is God, He is risen, and He ever lives and intercedes for those who’ve placed their trust in Him. We pray, Father, that the ones who see these words will come to know you as Lord and Savior, and will accept the forgiveness of sins that Jesus Christ offers. I pray this all in Jesus’ precious, holy Name, Amen!
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6).