Matthew 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-33, Luke 9:18-20
Summary: Jesus has been active for over two years, and His disciples have been there to witness His teaching and miracles. He asks them a question that we all need to answer: “Who do men say that I am?” Your answer determines your eternal destiny.
So far, in reading about the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus, we see that He has been active for two years or more, preaching the Word, teaching the people, performing miracles of healing, deliverance from demons, feeding crowds, stilling storms, and showing His mastery over the elements by walking on the water. The teaching they and the people had heard centered on repentance and belief in the Gospel and the use of parables to verbally illustrate major issues dealing with commitment, discipleship, faith, truth, and spiritual growth and maturity.
At this point in the Gospel, Jesus and His followers were near Caesarea Philippi, a city located north of Galilee inhabited by Gentiles and named in honor of Augustus Caesar by the tetrarch Philip, a son of Herod the Great. The town was Roman in decorum and paganism. Few Jews dared to venture there.
It is here where Jesus stops and asks a two-part question – “Who do men say that I am?” The disciples gave Him the answers that were heard around the region.
Some said that He was a resurrected John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets who preached repentance and renewal. Herod Antipas believed that Jesus was John raised from the dead. The Baptizer had denounced the sins of Antipas and had been imprisoned and executed for it.
Still others claimed that Jesus was Elijah, who had been predicted to return to Earth and herald the arrival of God’s Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6). Elijah had been known in the Scriptures as a fiery prophet who condemned the idolatry and murders of King Ahab and his evil consort Jezebel, who were the worst of the rulers of Israel. He had warned them and the nation of impending judgment, calling fire down from heaven to show the reality and power of God. He then ordered the false prophets of the pagan gods to be killed for their acts of barbarity and leading the people astray (1 Kings 18:20-40). He was later taken to heaven by a flaming chariot sent by God (2 Kings 2:1-12).
Still others claimed that Jesus was one of the prophets of old like Isaiah, who had predicted the arrival of a King who would suffer for the sins of His people (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), or Jeremiah, who had predicted the downfall of the kingdom of Judah for its numerous sins. There was also Ezekiel, who saw the dry bones representing the nation of Israel come to life (Ezekiel 37). This was ultimately fulfilled with the return of the Jews to their homeland in 1948 and establishing the state of Israel.
All of these answers were good and acceptable, for they all described the lives and works of mighty men of God and the heroes of the people, but Jesus asked the disciples a similar question, for they had witnessed great things, and now it was their turn to face Him and be honest. The question was, “But, who do you say that I am?”
It is brash and bold Peter who comes forth with the answer, “You are the Christ [Messiah]” (8:29). Matthew had included the phrase, “the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Upon that confession of faith, the Lord Jesus said that HE would build His church (ekklesia – “called out ones”) (1 Cor.11:3; Ephesians 1:22, 4:15, 5:23; Colossians. 1:18, 2:19). This is wonderful news, and who would not want to share it? Jesus is talking about a people from throughout the world who would be entrusted to spread the Gospel, live by the Gospel, and be assured that the world, the flesh, and the devil would never prevail against its power and purpose that was founded on the Rock of Christ Himself, whom no man or devil can ever defeat or destroy. Yet, Jesus told them to say nothing for now. Why?
First, He was NOT the Messiah that the people expected. He would not muster an invincible army to crush Rome and be another David. Second, the people tended to ignore the fact that the Messiah had to suffer for the sins of the people (Isaiah 53). This idea of a “suffering Messiah” was not part of the people’s plan, nor was it of the apostles, yet Jesus explained to them that this must be so (v.31).
Peter opens his mouth again and does the unthinkable – he rebukes the LORD for what He had just said. Suffer? Die? Why, Jesus could not do that, and would not if Peter had anything to say or do about it. This is the same man who just a moment ago was confessing that Jesus was the Messiah and now was reprimanding Jesus for doing the work of the Messiah! Jesus would have none of it, calling Peter “Satan” to his face.
Peter was unknowingly doing the job of the adversary, attempting to prevent Jesus from fulfilling His mission. This rebuke not only hit Peter hard, but it affected the other disciples as well. This shook them and made them realize that the time they would have with the Master was probably coming to a conclusion, or worse, they may be the victims of either Antipas’ or Rome’s wrath for allying themselves with Jesus. A Messiah was a ruler, and Rome would have none of it, seeing it as insurrection, a crime punishable by crucifixion.
Was there going to be a price for following Him as He taught? It would seem so, and the future of the apostles would be a route leading to their death for just such an accusation. It was to be an accusation that they would not recant or ever deny, for they would be the eyewitnesses to the fulfillment of Isaiah 53 and the message of salvation that Jesus not only taught but demonstrated by HIs death and resurrection.
Nothing would prevent the Lord Jesus from fulfilling His purpose, nor will anything stop Him from returning to this world one day to make all things new, rid the world and souls from evil, and rule and reign forever as the King of Kings, to whom every knee will bow (Philippians 2:9-11), both friend and enemy.
Now here is where you need to take your stand and answer the question Jesus asked His disciples. Who is He to you? I implore you not to ignore or put off this question, as you have no guarantee of tomorrow (Proverbs 27:1; Luke 12:13-21: Acts 24:25; 2 Corinthians 6:2; James 4:13-17). Repent of your sins and turn to Jesus Christ for everlasting life, mercy, and peace. That was HIs purpose for coming to this world. Why would you want to throw away the opportunity to receive the salvation He freely offers you? Settle this today.
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