“Who is Jesus?”
One of the most important questions we will ever ask ourselves is; who is Jesus? We can get that answer by looking up that name in the dictionary, finding it on the internet or perhaps by asking our neighbor. And as we receive the answer, we then need to ask ourselves another question: What will I do with Jesus? Well, that answer is not found in the dictionary, nor is it found on the internet. It comes from within each of us. We consider what the Bible says about Jesus, we look at how others responded to Him and to His work here on the Earth, then we think about how we need to respond to Him, as well. In our lesson today, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will explore those very things as we look at a familiar story in Matthew’s gospel. After spending a considerable amount of time with Jesus, His disciples were asked a question; Jesus asked “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They gave several answers. He then asks, “What about you?” Well, Jesus wants them to express their own thoughts and what kind of impact He was making on them. We too might be quick to respond to that same question. We might even give the right answer. And yet as we do, we are to carefully consider what that means for us. We are to think about the difference Jesus makes in our lives or even if He does. As we open our Bibles and study together, I hope this familiar passage will cause us to consider once again this important question, “Who is Jesus?” I invite you to stay tuned to this station for the next few minutes as we seek to know more about Jesus and His salvation.
Do you remember those times, when growing up, you were told not to go to certain places? Oh, those places produced nothing but trouble; it might have been an abandoned house or perhaps even a broken down storage barn. And perhaps there were activities going on in such places that were illegal or maybe even dangerous. Maybe there were people involved there who would not provide good influence upon you, and your parents simply did not want you to be exposed to such negative people or dangerous situations. Yes, your parents wanted to do everything they could to guide you in that which was right and that which was wrong. Well, in Matthew chapter 16, Jesus takes His disciples to such a place. It is north of the Sea of Galilee about thirty miles. It is at a place where the head waters, or the origins, of the Jordan River begin. Located at the base of Mount Hermon, this is the start of the river that winds its way through Israel and Jordan. For about 135 miles the Jordan River flows from the north to the south, through fertile valleys, and eventually it empties into the Dead Sea. Alexander the Great came to this beautiful place believing it was the perfect spot for the worship of the Greek god Pan. Many people worshipped him as the god of shepherds and flocks and nature. Well, Jesus brings His disciples to this place, that was well known for its evil and its corruption, and it was here that people came to worship their idols and to offer sacrifices to them. Today, this place is called Banias. Oh, the god, Pan, represented evil. It was off limits to God fearing adults. It was a place full of mystery and darkness and it was certainly a place the parents did not want their children to visit. Niches were cut into the rock where images of Pan would sit. There was an open court where the people worshipped, and there was even a temple dedicated to Zeus, the king of all man made gods. Again, it was here the people would come to worship and to make sacrifices to these idols. And perhaps that is the very reason that Jesus brought His disciples to this place. This was the perfect place to quiz them about His life and His ministry and His purpose here upon the Earth. Yes, Jesus wanted them to share with Him what others were saying about Him. He wanted to hear from His closest disciples about the attitudes and the ideas that other people were expressing about Him. Oh, Jesus was not seeking their approval. He was not trying to get a bigger ego, at all. He was fully confident in who He was, as the Son of the Living God. Jesus simply wanted to know what these disciples thought about Him and His life, His ministry and His purpose. Oh, after teaching them about God’s Kingdom, and after allowing them to witness His miracles, He wanted to know what they had learned the last several months. And perhaps He asked them a series of questions in regards to that. Perhaps there were questions like these; Have you grown in your faith toward Me? Have you come to understand I am unlike any of these man made gods? Do you realize the purpose for which God sent Me into this world? Oh, away from all of those who only followed Jesus to be miraculously healed or fed, Jesus wanted some quiet time with His disciples, with His friends, these close followers. Well, we know this area as Caesarea Philippi. As we read the story in the gospel of Matthew chapter 16, I want us to notice the conversation that takes place here, in the 16th chapter, in Caesarea Philippi, at the origins of the Jordan River, that Jesus has with His disciples. Let’s begin with verse 13. <When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” He asked, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in Heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven.” Then He ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah.> Upon hearing the question from Jesus, who do people say I am, the disciples responded with several different answers. This evidently was what the other people were saying about Jesus. Well, first of all they pointed to John the Baptist. You might remember, he was the one whom God asked to go ahead of Jesus and prepare the way for Him. And John went about proclaiming a message of repentance. He wanted the people to soften their hearts and to change their ways so they would be willing to receive the messages Jesus had for them. Another man mentioned here is Elijah, the prophet; and in the minds of most people Elijah was the greatest prophet who ever lived. And, no doubt, the Old Testament is filled with a number of stories in which Elijah spoke on behalf of God. Another man mentioned from the Old Testament was Jeremiah. Oh, he was willing to stand up for God, in the face of difficult and challenging times, as he spoke to the people of Judah. Perhaps there were others mentioned by these disciples on this occasion, but these people who were talking to the disciples about Jesus thought that perhaps He was one of these people from the past who had been reincarnated, or at least He was similar to them. But then upon hearing that Jesus asks a question, in verse 15, “Well, what about you, who do you say I am?” It appears that Peter was the spokesman for these disciples, and he had a response. He stated, “You are the Messiah, or you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Oh, for Peter, He was much more than the prophet Elijah. He was much more than Jeremiah, the one who proclaimed a message from God. Yes, Jesus was much more than even John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus, as Jesus was about to do something, and was in fact doing something, that was far greater than whatever had been done in the past. Yes, Jesus was the Christ. He was the Anointed One. He was the Messiah. He was the one and only Son of the one, true, Living God. Well, that did not match the people’s perception of Jesus. They thought He was somebody different. They thought He was somebody from the past, as I just mentioned. But Peter recognized He was truly special, and Peter was not ashamed to admit that, right here in Caesarea Philippi in the midst of all of the evil and foreign worship going on, the sacrifices being made to the idols. Yes, Peter knew Jesus was the Son of God. He realized that He had come from God and He was the One who had come to take away the sin of all people and provide hope for their future. Peter realized that Jesus was the One who fulfilled the Scriptures. Jesus was the Messiah. He was the One people were anticipating and looking forward to His arrival. Yes, for Peter, Jesus was all of that and much more. He was Israel’s Messiah. He was God’s Son; and, Jesus had come into the world for the sake of not only the Jews but also for the non-Jews, alike. For a moment it seems that one of Jesus’ disciples really understood Him. Peter understood who He was and His purpose upon the Earth; and, who He represented. Peter recognized Jesus was someone very special. He opened up his eyes, his heart was softened and he made that great confession. He said, “Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And those are some of the greatest and most important words that have ever been spoken by anyone who has followed Jesus Christ. Well, upon hearing that statement Jesus commends Peter for it. “Good job. Thank you. You are exactly right,” He might have said; and, He stated then that He would build His church upon what Peter just said. No, He would not build His church upon Peter himself but rather upon Peter’s statement, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, and Jesus’ church would be built upon that very fact; that, He would be the foundation, He would be the cornerstone of His very church. And once He began to build His church, absolutely nothing would destroy or tear it down. Oh, there would be threats against it. Other churches would be built to compete against it, but Jesus’ church would prevail. Now, Jesus was not referring to some physical building on a street corner somewhere. He was not referring to a structure built out of rock and wood and stone and concrete. That’s not what Jesus was saying at all. But rather, Jesus was referring to a group of people that would come together in submission to Him, recognizing Him, as Peter recognized Him, as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. And these people would come from absolutely everywhere, from all nations throughout the world; and they would speak various languages; and they would all be united as part of the church which Jesus built. Yes, He would be the founder and the originator of His church. The apostle Paul, in his writings, even refers to Jesus as the Bride of the Church. He belongs to the church and the church belongs to Him; and so, it will be a collection of people everywhere that would be united together in a church that belongs to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And that church came into existence some two thousand years ago. It was on the day of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem where this very same man, Peter, and the other disciples were there. Thousands of people had assembled on that occasion to reflect upon Jesus and to celebrate. And Peter got up and he spoke about Jesus and His life, His ministry, His death, His resurrection. The people recognized they were guilty of putting the Son of God to death; and so, they asked the question “What do we do about that?” And Peter told them, in Acts chapter 2, “Repent, be baptized into Jesus for the forgiveness of your sin and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And it was on that very occasion that at least three thousand people did that very thing, they were immersed into Jesus Christ. And the text tells us, they were the ones who were being added to those who were being saved, to the number of those who are belonging to the church of Jesus Christ. Many others, still today, put their faith and obedience in Jesus, and the church continues to expand and grow throughout this world. And that church includes those who come together as believers in Him. It includes those who submit their lives to the authority of Jesus Christ. It includes those who turn away from their sin and are baptized into Jesus, just as those people did in Acts chapter 2. Well, by making this statement about His church, Jesus was placing Himself above all others. He was the One the people were to follow and obey. He was the One who was able to do far beyond what any of the gods here in Caesarea Philippi could do, and can still not do today. Yes, Jesus’ church would stand up against all forces of evil, even the powers of Hell, and yet His church would survive, it would overcome; and, it is still doing that today. Yes, Jesus would take the place of Elijah, the prophet. He would take the place of Jeremiah, the preacher. He would take the place of John the Baptist, as he was decreasing and Jesus was increasing. And not even all of these man made gods (of Pan and Zeus) could begin to compare with Jesus and His church. Oh, these gods were carved out of wood and stone and place upon the rocks. And there they sat until someone moved them. They could not see nor talk. They had no heartbeat and could not hear. They could not interact with others and they had no life whatsoever. Old Testament prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, spoke against such idols and the worship of them. They warned people not become involved with such matters, but rather to focus on the Lord God Almighty. They showed the difference between the gods of man and the greatness of God. There’s a couple of passages I want us to notice, first of all, in Isaiah chapter 42 verse 8. These are the words from God, Himself, and Isaiah relates them to the people. He states, <“I am the Lord; that is My name! I will not yield My glory to another or My praise to idols.”> And then this, from Jeremiah 10 verse 5: <"Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good."> Standing here in Caesarea Philippi with His disciples, Jesus visually demonstrated the difference between Himself and all of these man made idols. He might have even said, “Well, these idols have no church. They cannot invite people to follow them. They have nothing to offer and they can save no one.” Yes, Jesus draws a contrast between the creator of these images and the Creator of this world. He might have said, “These idols did not create themselves, but God created the one who created them. They have no life, but God is the one who gives life, and purpose, and meaning, and significance to each and every person on the face of this Earth.” The truth revealed to Peter is the same truth that separates followers of Jesus from the rest of the religious world today. You might remember the words of Jesus so long ago. He said, <“I am the way, the truth, and the life; and, no one comes to the Father except through Me,”> John chapter 14 and verse 6. Oh, today we also are asked that same question, and we need to respond to it. How do we respond? What is the answer that we give? And hopefully we will give the very same answer that Peter gave; you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And according to Jesus, in Matthew chapter 10 verses 32 and 33, that will produce great and eternal rewards. Listen to His statement: “Everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father in Heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father in Heaven.” Oh, I pray today that, like Peter, our eyes are opened up and our heart begins to understand who Jesus is. There are three things I want us to remember from the story here in Matthew chapter 16. Number one; Jesus is the Messiah. He is the Christ. He is the Anointed One of God who came from the Father in Heaven and lived among us. Number two; let us know that Jesus is God’s Son who was sent to this Earth for all people. He is the Savoir of the World. In fact, John the Baptist said, in John 1 verse 29, when he saw Jesus, <“Look! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”> And then thirdly; let us realize that Jesus wants to be our Messiah and our Savoir. Peter, on another occasion, made the statement, in Acts 4 verse 12, <“There is no other name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”> Oh, in the midst of all of the religious confusion in our world today, I hope we reflect upon who Jesus is and what He has done for us. For there is coming a day when all of us will be asked the question, by God, Himself, “Who do you say My Son is?” And my prayer and my desire for all of us is that we will boldly proclaim Jesus Christ as the one and only Son of the one, true God. Yes, that’s who Jesus is, and my prayer for you is that you will recognize that in your life today.
At the southwest base of Mount Hermon on a rocky terrace some 1150 feet above sea level lie the ruins of this ancient city called Caesarea Philippi. Located some 24 miles to the northwest of Jerusalem, this was a center for the worship of the Pagan god, Pan. This area was given by Caesar Augusts to Hara the Great in 20 BC. Philip rebuilt and beautified the town, calling it Caesarea as a compliment to Augusts. He then added his own name, to distinguish it from Caesarea on the coast of the Mediterranean. The Greeks call it Panias because of a temple built to the Pagan god, Pan. The modern village built among the ruins contains about 350 people, the walls and towers of the remains are from the times of the Crusades. Immediately to the north of the town, at the foot of a steep cliff, are the head waters of the Jordan River. At one time the waters came from a cave which is now filled with debris. The two niches cut in the rock are the places where images of the god, Pan, resided, as this was a place rich with Pagan and idolatry worship. As Jesus and His disciples traveled together one day, they came to this area from the town of Bethsaida. The disciples had certainly heard about it, and no doubt avoided it at all cost. Jesus brought them here for a reason; it was to remind them of the difference between the gods others worshiped and who He was and represented. It was on this very spot that Peter made his great confession, which is found in Matthew 16: Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God.
Thank you for being our guest today on “Key to the Kingdom.” As Jesus asked His disciples who He was, He asks us the same question. As we consider our response, let us never forget that He is God’s Son, who came to this world to offer salvation and hope to each of us. If you would like to hear or view this message again, please go to our website, keytothekingdom.com. It is available to download in several different formats and requires no cost or obligation. Other lessons are there, as well, and I encourage you to access any of them that might be of interest. Daily devotional thoughts and short inspirational videos are on the website as well. They offer practical ideas and encouragement for your spiritual growth. Thought questions associated with each lesson provide additional ways to make personal application of God’s Word. By calling the number on the screen, you can leave a message and we would be happy to return the call very soon. Weekly posts are made on our Facebook® page, and I hope you will like and share them with others. Roku® television and a free phone app will also take you directly to our website. Oh, all of these media options provide easy access this outreach ministry. I trust you will take advantage of those that might be of interest. Thank you again for taking time to be with us for today’s broadcast. I trust you will join us again next time, on this same channel, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”