TEXT: Matthew 16:13-20
What do you believe about Jesus Christ? Does it matter what you believe about Him? Many people tell us that if you believe a certain way you are intolerant. Others say it does not matter what you believe as long as you believe. Instead of seeking man’s opinion I want to look at what Jesus had to say about this subject. In Matthew 16 we find Jesus words on this important question.
In this text Jesus was nearing the cross. He had spent almost three years with His disciples teaching and modeling ministry. He knew he was about to die and leave this world. However, He wanted to be sure that His disciples had understood the vital lessons He had taught. Among the lessons he shared was the truth of HIS IDENTITY. He could not expect His disciples to be effective spiritual leaders if they did not discern His true identity. Within this context he asked them “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (vs. 13 NIV) Jesus began with an easy question and moved to the difficult question. After questioning the disciples about people’s beliefs he moved to question them about their beliefs. He said “But what about you…who do you say I am?” (vs. 15 NIV) The answer to this question mattered to Jesus. There are some facts that are not a matter of life or death. If you do not know the names of the Presidents you can survive. If you cannot explain the chemical make-up of water you can survive. If you cannot explain the inner workings of a computer you can survive. However, from this passage we learn that it is essential that you understand the identity of Jesus.
Look at our text. In this text we discover it is important what you believe about Jesus. I want to share three important truths from the text.
The first truth is that:
1. IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE “CLOSE” TO JESUS BUT NOT ACTUALLY KNOW HIM.
Karl Barth, a famous theologian, was on a streetcar one day in Basel, Switzerland, where he lectured. A tourist to the city climbed on and sat down next to Barth. The two men started chatting with each other. “Are you new to the city?” Barth inquired. “Yes,” said the tourist. “Is there anything you would particularly like to see in this city?” asked Barth. “Yes; he said, “I’d love to meet the famous theologian Karl Barth. Do you know him?” Barth replied, “Well, as a matter of fact, I do. I give him a shave every morning.” The tourist got off the streetcar quite delighted. He went back to his hotel saying to himself, “I met Karl Barth’s barber today.” That tourist missed the point! (Contributed by: Jeff Hughes)
- If you are playing golf and the ball stops one inch from the cup, does that count?
- If a basketball player made a lay-up, no matter how graceful it has been, but never went in the basket, would that count?
- If a boy stops a kiss one inch from his girls face, does that count as a kiss?
Even so, being close in your opinion of Jesus does not count.
In this text we discover that people are sometimes close but wrong about Jesus. (cite the disciples, taking up the opinion of other people)The people in Jesus’ day had a number of worthy opinions of Him. They compared Him to John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah. They were sincere but sincerely wrong. A common saying illustrates this point. “Close does not count except in horse shoes and hand grenades.” In playing a game of horse shoes you get points if you are close to the pin. If you are near a hand grenade when it explodes it will kill you. Close counts in some disciplines but it does not count in your opinion of Jesus.
Jesus takes his disciples to the city of Caesarea Philippi. It’s 25 miles northeast of Galilee at the foot of Mount Hermon. It’s 1150 feet above sea level. The area is dotted with monuments dedicated to other gods. There’s a monument to the Greek God Pan. There’s a massive marble temple dedicated to Caesar.
And in the midst of this pagan environment, the Son of God stands in the shadows. He asks, “Who do the people say the Son of Man is?” He’s not asking because He doesn’t know the answer. He’s asking because He wants His disciples to think critically about their own culture.
So the disciples reply, “Some say you’re John the Baptist.” That’s what King Herod says in Matthew 14:2: “This is John the Baptist, he has risen from the dead. That is why miraculous powers are at work in Him!”
And some say you’re Elijah the prophet. Malachi 4:5 says “Behold, I send you the prophet Elijah before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” Some say that you are the fulfillment of that prophecy.
And some say you are Jeremiah because he challenged the Jewish leadership just like YOU challenge the Jewish leadership.
“And some people say that you’re one of the prophets of long ago.”
There’s one thing these answers have in common. THEY’RE WRONG! And even today, there are a lot of opinions about Jesus that are either wrong or inadequate.
Some say “He’s a good teacher.” But that’s not even close…not even “good” enough. Philippians 2:9 says that “God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Jesus is a good teacher, all right. But He’s WAY MORE than just a good teacher.
There are certain questions that require a good answer or you’re in trouble.
Here’s one: “Will you take this woman to be your wife, to live together in the holy covenant of marriage?” That’s a question you better get right or you’re in trouble!
Or let’s say you’re at a job interview. The boss leans over the desk and asks “Why do you think we should hire you for this position?” That’s a question that needs a good answer or you’re not going to get the job.
Or let’s say you’re driving down SLEX. An officer pulls you over. He asks “Do you know how fast you were driving?” Come to think of it, there is no good answer for that question! If an officer asks you that question, you’re in trouble even before you answer it!
These are important questions. But today Jesus is asking the most important question of all. It’s a question you HAVE to get right.
So Jesus says “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” You know what the culture says about Me. You know what the Scripture says about Me. You’ve had ample opportunity to think through your theological position. Now it’s time for you to get off the fence! It’s time for you to make a stand! It’s time for you to publicly answer once and for all “who do YOU say that I am?!!!”
Some of you are here because your parents brought you here. And I think it’s great that you’re here. You’re ALWAYS welcome here! Jesus says in Matthew 19:16 “let the children come to Me.”
But now it’s time to answer Jesus’ question for yourself! I want you to say “Lord Jesus, I believe in You, and I’m not saying it because Mom wants me to say it, but because I believe it for myself.”
The second truth we discover in this text is that
2. THERE IS A RIGHT ANSWER ABOUT JESUS.
Sometimes people get into discussions about Jesus identity. The early church struggled with the issue of heresy on many occasions. Even in our day we struggle with this issue. It is an inescapable teaching of the evangelical church that Jesus is God in the flesh. However, some groups deny this teaching. For instance, we find an example of this in the Watchtower translation of the Jehovah’s witnesses. They translate John 1:1 “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” (Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1961) Notice the “a” and notice the little “g” in God. This translation takes away the divinity of Jesus. According to Mt. 16:13-19, the text that we read, (based on Jesus words) there is a right answer as to Jesus identity.
C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity” said about Jesus, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.” (Jason Duncan)
Sometimes people are offended when we speak of such absolute truth.
On July 06, 2000, Hugh Downs, the guest host on the Larry King Live Show, lead a round table discussion on the questions, “Who is Jesus? And why is there such a fascination with that question now?” Among his guests was Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Dean of Oxford L’chaim Society. During the discussion, Boteach said, “Jesus was a great teacher, a very ethical, moral, human being — perhaps in our opinion, not a prophet, but certainly a phenomenal teacher and Christianity is a great world religion…and while I agree he is a great light, once we say he is the only light, this is what leads to all kinds of spiritual racism and a division between Jews and Christians.” (SOURCE: Fresh Illustrations, http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations…Contributed by: James Wilson)
Now in verse 16, we can read Peter’s answer. He declares “I reject what the culture says, and I accept what the Scripture says. You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” They’re in this town surrounded by DEAD gods. And Peter is saying “You are the Son of the LIVING God!”
Sometimes Peter says dumb things and he gets in trouble and we all laugh at him. And it’s going to happen again…and again. But here, we have to salute him. In the original language, Peter’s answer is very direct: “You are THE Christ, THE Son of THE Living God!” The expression “Son of God” in the Old Testament was an honorary title given to kings. In 1 Chronicles 17:13, God says about Solomon, “I will be his father and he will be my son.”
But in the New Testament, the title “Son of God” not only means that Jesus is King. It means that He is literally the offspring of God, the second person of the Trinity who comes down to earth to die for our sins and rise again.
So when Peter calls Jesus “the Son of the living God,” he hits it out of the park!
One time I was competing in a District Level HEKASI Quizbee, the question was “What is the oldest type of trade in the Philippines?” Nobody was hitting their buzzers, but all of a sudden, without me knowing it, I accidentally pressed the buzzer…all eyes were on me…I was really nervous, hearing the timer…then I just answered, “Barter Trade” with a big question mark on my face… The teacher looked at me and said, “You got it ! Very good.”
And I was thinking “How in the world did I get that right? Where did THAT come from?” It was one of those moments when I was thinking “Someone up there likes me!”
Jesus says to Simon Peter “Someone up there likes you! Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”
Simon Peter isn’t alone. Many others have answered the question “Who do you say that I am?”
- In John 11:27, Martha says “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
- And in Acts 17:3, Paul tells the Thessalonians “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ!”
- Years ago, the actor Denzel Washington was being interviewed by Christianity Today Magazine. They asked him “What do you believe about Jesus?” He confessed “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit. I know it’s real.”
- And quarterback Aaron Rodgers repented of his sins and asked Jesus to come into his life when he was very young. At the Athletes in Action website, he said “The Lord is my Rock. He has always been there, always present at good times and bad; and when I feel His presence, my life is full.”
- Years ago, former Russia President Mikhail Gorbachev got down on his knees at the Church of St Francis and publicly professed his faith in Jesus Christ.
Millions of people have come to the same conclusion: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just because we’ve read theology books, not just because our pastor told us, or that we’ve grown up having those teachings, but because we have experienced in our life that He is indeed the Messiah! There were sins and bad habits we could not overcome before, depression, guilt and unsatisfaction dominated our lives, but when we had an encournter with Jesus, we have been set free! Now we confess He is the Christ! We felt His love, His work, His care and His power residing in our lives, that logic, nor Science could ever explain. And if you want to be right with the Lord, you need to make the same confession: “Lord Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. From now on, I’m going to live the way YOU want me to live, the way your WORD tells me to live.”
Simon Peter gave a right answer concerning Jesus identity. He said “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (vs. 16 NIV) Jesus was pleased with Peter’s response. He passed the test. Peter’s confession revealed several things for which Jesus was looking.
- His confession revealed that he believed Jesus was the only way to God. The word Christ refers to the Messiah. Throughout the Bible the Messiah is referred to as the one who would deliver men from their sins and bring them access to God.
- His confession revealed that he believed Jesus was God. Those are bed-rocks of the Christian faith. Jesus is the only means of access to God. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. He is totally God. He is the right answer to the divine quiz. There is no other answer.
3. KNOWING JESUS WOULD GIVE US THE RESPONSIBILITY TO MAKE HIM KNOWN TO OTHERS.
We need to examine the implications for our lives today. In verse 18, Jesus says “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” The name “Peter” in Greek is petros, which means “little rock,” and the word “rock” is petra, which means “large rock.” It’s a play on words. Jesus is saying “Peter, you are a little rock, but upon this big rock of Christian truth that was revealed to you by my Father, I will build my church.”
And then Jesus says “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” The word “YOU” is plural, so Jesus is saying “I will give to ‘you people’ the keys to the kingdom.”
The keys symbolize the authority to open and shut doors.
And Dr. Grant Osborne points out that in the book of Acts, Peter uses his keys three times.
- In Acts 2, he preaches a great sermon on the Day of Pentecost to open the doors of the kingdom to the Jews.
- In Acts 8, he uses his keys again to open the doors of the kingdom to the Samaritans,
- and in Acts, he gives that great speech in Cornelius’ house to open the doors of the kingdom to the Gentiles.
I’m holding in my hand a key to the Word of Hope-Novaliches’ Church. This key gives me access! I can come here and worship God anytime, day or night.
But because I have a key, I also have a responsibility to let people in! If someone calls me up and says “Jhun, I need to get into the church,” it’s my job to make sure they can get in.
Same thing is true here. When we became believers in Jesus Christ, God gave us the key to the kingdom of heaven. And now, it’s our responsibility to make sure that the people in our lives can get in! It’s our responsibility to share the saving message of Jesus with the people He places in our path.
- Maybe you have a brother in law who doesn’t believe in God. He says “I don’t believe in God. Christianity is a church for the weak.” When you pray for him, and when you tell him how Jesus Christ has changed your life for the better, you are using the kingdom keys that Jesus gave you. And Jesus will use you to build His church.
- Or maybe your grandchild is getting baptized at the church. When you invite your friends and family to the baptism, you’re not just inviting them to a ceremony, you’re opening the doors of the kingdom so they can experience God in a fresh new way.
Believers in Christ are rewarded with a great ministry. But believers in Christ are also rewarded with great authority! Jesus says “Since I’m giving you the keys to the kingdom, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
This is what I think Jesus is saying: “If someone in the church REFUSES to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, then the church has the authority to say “You are bound in your sin,” and heaven will agree.
But if that same person says “I was wrong! Jesus isn’t just a good teacher. He isn’t just “the man upstairs.” He is the CHRIST, the Son of the Living God!” then the church has the authority to say “You are loosed from your sins!” and heaven will agree.
The disciples are probably thinking “Wow! If Jesus is giving us the authority to announce that people are loosed from their sins, then we need to get out there and help people get loosed from their sins! We need to tell them that Jesus is the Christ!”
But Jesus says in verse 20 “Not yet. Wait until we get to chapter 28. THEN I’ll send you out!”
This is one of the deepest passages in Matthew, so I’m going to give you a brief paraphrase of Marc Axelrod: Jesus says “Who do the people say that I am?” The disciples reply, “Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, some say Jeremiah.” Jesus says “What about you? Peter says “I disagree with what society says, and I agree with what Scripture says. You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus says “Blessed are you! You are Peter the little rock and upon this big rock of Christian truth which you have confessed, I will build my church. I will give to each of you the keys to the kingdom. You have the authority to bind those who refuse to confess the truth about Me, and you have the authority to proclaim grace to those who DO confess the truth about Me.”
Tonight, I want to give you a chance to do what Peter did. I want to give you an opportunity to make a public confession to Jesus. I want you to close your eyes and say with me… “Jesus, You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Excellent.
The second thing we need to do is to pray for more opportunities to use our keys. You can say “Lord, there’s a lady at work whose husband has cancer. I would LOVE to have an opportunity to have lunch with her and pray with her husband. Please give me this chance to use my keys. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
– Marc Axelrod
– Gregory Thomas
– Dr. Grant Osborne
– Jeff Hughes
– Jason Duncan
– Fresh Illustrations, http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations…Contributed by: James Wilson