Guest Minister – Rev. Caesar J. David | Union Park United Methodist Church, Des Moines, IA
If it had not been the Lord who was on our side —let Israel now say—
if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when our enemies attacked us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the flood would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone
the raging waters.
Blessed be the Lord,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth
Matthew 16:13 –20
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the messiah.
In this passage we have a significant moment of spiritual encounter for Peter. (We have here Peter’s confession). Jesus asks his disciples these two questions:
A. Who do people say I am?
B. Who do you say I am?
To the first question they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:14) Some said that he was John the Baptist. They felt that John the Baptist was so great a figure that it might well be that he had come back from the dead.
When the people identified Jesus with Elijah and with Jeremiah they were, according to their understanding, paying him a great compliment and setting him in a high place, for Jeremiah and Elijah were none other than the expected forerunners of the Anointed One of God. When they arrived, the Kingdom would be very near indeed.
To the second question, Peter answers “You are the Messiah”.
The three gospels have their own version of the saying of Peter. Matthew 16:16, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20 variously say “Messiah”, “Christ” or “Anointed One”.
The word Messiah and the word Christ are the same; the one is from the Hebrew and the other is from the Greek for The Anointed One. Kings were ordained to office by anointing. The Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One is God’s King over men.
(Christ comes from the Greek word χριστός (chrīstós), meaning “anointed one”. The word is derived from the Greek verb χρίω (chrī́ō), meaning “to anoint.” In the Greek Septuagint 1 , Christos was used to translate the Hebrew ָ שִׁ י ח ַ (Mašíaḥ, messiah), meaning “[one who is] anointed” – Wikipedia)
It’s important for us to under stand that this question is not just about the identity and work of Jesus Christ, but it is also about the allegiance of the one who answers. Peter’s confession recognizes and affirms Jesus as The Christ or Messiah. And this came from God-given wisdom, not human knowledge. It is when Peter has reached a certain level of understanding and knowing Jesus that he is able to make that confession.
That question is directed at us today. “Who do you think I am?” Who is Jesus to you?
(1 A Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament), including the Apocrypha, made for Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC and adopted by the early Christian Churches. )
Your answer must go beyond the intellectual and the academic.
Your answer will depend on your approach to knowing Jesus.
And your answer will determine how much you love and honor Him.
So when Jesus is asking “Who do you say I am?”, He’s asking you “What am I to you?” or “What do I mean to you?”
Let me suggest 3 ways, approaches or levels of ‘knowing’ Jesus that we may have according to the focus or basis of that relationship . We may say that “Jesus is the Christ”, but we may have different things in focus in our relationship with Jesus. Let’s get into a little detail to know what those could be.
1. Relating to Jesus with a focus on only fulfilment of our physical needs.
Jesus is known to many as healer, miracle-man, wonder- worker and so on. It’s possible that our approach to Jesus is limited to having some need fulfilled. It could be a physical blessing of some sort: the provision of something we need, and the removal of something that impedes our perceived happiness.
Unfortunately, that can sometimes become the limited scope of our relationship with Jesus. We go to Him only when we’re in need, or when we’re in pain or when we really want something.
Jesus is not dismissive of such a relationship that is based on our needs. Often our walk with the Lord begins that way. But if that does not lead to a growing spiritual awareness of all that Jesus wants to do in us and through us, then our relationship is limited to a temporal and material one and does not grow enough to really honor the Lord.
2. Relating to Jesus with a focus on only receiving spiritual benefits.
We may go beyond the material and physical to understanding how we stand to receive spiritual benefits in relating to Jesus at a higher level. If the spiritual benefits are the only things in focus in our relationship with Jesus and is the basis of it, we may still be unyielding and selfish in only wanting an escape and an insurance.
Jesus did pay the price for our sins, we have forgiveness and eternal life in the merit of His blood. It is God’s Grace freely given; we just have to receive it. But if that is our only focus in our relationship with the Lord and we do nothing to make that relationship grow or we do not grow in love with Jesus, then perhaps we know Jesus only as an escape hatch. If so, we’re still not at a level of knowing Jesus in a way that brings Him honor, glory and joy.
3. Relating to Jesus with a focus on our unworthiness, His unmerited Grace and seeking to love Him.
This is the level of knowing Jesus with a truly repentant, broken, humble and contrite heart. When we know Jesus and approach Him out of a sense of remorse and sadness because we have displeased Him we will find ourselves most prepared to receive His mercy with the greatest joy. This is where we’re seeking forgiveness for our sins more than any other thing.
Many of us may have experienced that at this level of understanding who Jesus is, we are completely aware of our own wretchedness and we’re not seeking to get any benefits because we know that we don’t deserve any. We’re just craving to say “sorry” and craving the opportunity to express our love for Him because that’s what we want to do the most – to get right with God, to love Him as He first loved us.
It is then that we discover the things that bring pleasure to God and how we can honor Him. It is then that we discover the beauty and true joy of our relationship with the Lord.
Co ming back to the question of Jesus, “Who do you say I am?” We’ve each got to answer it for ourselves. Think hard. Think honestly.
Is Jesus only a way to get some material benefits.
Is Jesus just an insurance policy to keep me out of hell?
Is Jesus my King and Lord – Someone to whom I completely surrender and want to serve and love?
If your answer reveals that you’re honoring God, Praise the Lord! If your answer reveals that you still may not be in love with God, don’t be discouraged. Peter was not able to respond in his own wisdom. It was heavenly wisdom. With more experiences of His love, more awareness of His working in our lives, with prayer for greater understanding of His ways, we will find a deeper, richer and more satisfying and growing relationship with the Lord – We will know about being in love with God.
God bless you.