Who Do You Say That I Am?
Hi Calvary, my name is Enoch. My wife is Candice and our daughter is Rosemary. We’ve been attending Calvary for 7 years. We have really missed seeing your faces, it’s been way too long.
Today I’ll be continuing in our series on the Gospel of Matthew, “An Invitation to the Kingdom”.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but 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 Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matthew 16:13-26 NASB
There is a lot in this passage, a sermon for every verse. Often when we read and memorize scripture we break things down into verses or phrases that we really connect with. However, this passage has some incredibly powerful parts and some that were not only hard for the disciples to hear at that time, but are hard for us to grasp as well. Of course, we don’t understand as many of the nuisances as his disciples who walked with Jesus, but we do have the opportunity to gather the entire story of Jesus’ life and ministry and understand where he was coming from and where he was going. The disciples got to walk in the story but we get to look in on it.
I invite you to take some time with this passage right now and this week, as it is so interwoven, that there are keys that unlock doors at every turn. I truly believe that every part of scripture points to Jesus; and this passage reveals more of His heart as we read it and then continue on in the book of Matthew.
The main theme that I’d like to focus on, is Jesus’ question: Who do you say that I am? Each of us must answer this question as we come to Christ, and then throughout our spiritual journey we revisit this question over and over again—especially now in the season that Calvary is in.
Jesus was essentially asking the disciples to really consider who they believed Him to be. They have walked alongside Him through a lot at this point, and yet Jesus knew that greater things were ahead, but so were unknown tests and challenges for them.
For some context, Jesus has been travelling to the northern part of Israel with His disciples. We are about 3 years into His ministry and He has been healing and delivering many people, performing miracles, He walked on water, calmed the storm, He just fed 4000 dudes and their families, He teaches “as one with authority”, and has been a pretty notable figure in the short time of His ministry.
Who do the people say that the son of man is? They answer, some say “John the Baptist, or Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. By answering this way, they are listing some very significant people (who are all dead). These were all men who the people knew as spiritual heroes—although, I would like to point out that each of these prophets were often misunderstood, lived unorthodox lives, and were hunted down in some way by those in power who did not appreciate their convictions in following God.
So, then Jesus takes it a step further. Because these disciples have formed a relationship with Him over time, and it’s not just hearsay, He suggests, “you have seen me every day, you’ve walked with me, heard my words, felt my touch, seen miracles”…“But who do you say that I am?”
Around this time, there were others claiming to be the Messiah and who led revolts against the Romans, but they were all quickly snuffed out.
N.T. Wright says ‘‘The disciples weren’t expecting a divine redeemer; they were longing for a king. And they thought they’d found one.” But what about you?
One commentator says, “This is the moment that transfers theology from an armchair discussion to an uncomfortable dialogue between God and us.” (Cole)
Who do you say that I am? Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” He not only refers to Jesus as the Christ (the promised redeemer of Israel), but as the Son of God; one who is equal with and part of the Godhead. “The Christ”, or “the anointed one”, means one who has a royal and political call to leadership, but also an eternal priestly call to lead the people spiritually.
Even though the disciples have seen Jesus do countless miracles, and have heard Him referring to God as His Father, and calling Himself the Son of God/son of man they don’t fully realize what He is showing them and they don’t really get it. But this moment was different, and Jesus explains why: “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Did you hear that? It has been revealed by the Father.
I’d like to point out that this is somewhat out of character for Peter; he often speaks his mind and that gets him in trouble from time to time. But Jesus isn’t saying, “Congratulations Peter, you’ve answered correctly, here’s your gold star. You’re the best student.” He is actually saying, “My Father has revealed this to you and because of that you are blessed”, or “I want to bless you and encourage you for listening to the Father, for He wants to show you so many things when you are attuned to His voice, and not just to your own understanding”.
Not too long before this Peter had walked on water with Jesus and then looked at the waves and started to sink. I believe this is the same principle: with his eyes set on the waves, or surroundings, or his own wisdom he will inevitably fall, or stand in the way of Jesus, or deny the one he has followed. But when he is following as a child—humble and receptive to how Jesus wants to lead him—the journey is surprising, miraculous, and even more humbling, and yet so fulfilling to see the endlessness of God’s grace and power.
I really wanted to get into the story and try to understand what this was like for Peter, as this whole passage is very significant. So I’ve written a narrative from Peter’s perspective.
As I read this passage, I really find myself in Peter’s story. There is so much that we can know of God in our own seeking but it is only the revelation of His Spirit that truly shows us who Jesus is and opens us up to such a deep surrender and trust in Him.
Here is Peter’s Confession:
So there we were with Yeshua, on the towering 100-foot cliffs of Caesarea Philippi. You wouldn’t find any good Jew here because, well, a lot of gross pagan worship happened in that place. Galileans likened the endless cave at the bottom of the cliffs to the gates of Hades. The other 11 with me were cautious of even being there, but I was definitely up for another adventure, even if this eerie mountain made me feel a darkness not found on Mount Zion.
Then He began with a question, which usually meant another one was coming: Who do the people say the Son of Man is? Many of our people are saying that he is one of the risen prophets, or somehow that he is John, who was just beheaded. But this is a question that everyone has been asking these days. Who is this Jesus? Isn’t he a carpenter’s son? Where did he get such wisdom, power, conviction, and grace? Many have seen his power and believe he is the long awaited Messiah coming to overthrow Rome, but for anyone who has really heard him it is clear that he is not like the other so-called messiahs.
Jesus continued: Who do you say that I Am?
When I answered, I heard the words leave my mouth and it wasn’t like so many other times when I didn’t really think about what I was going to say, and yet it wasn’t like I didn’t believe what I said; in fact, I believed them more than I could have ever imagined. But when that holy moment occurred I felt conviction grow stronger every time I played those words over in my mind, realizing their significance. If He is who He says He is, this changes everything.
“You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!” Why didn’t I think of that before? I guess I kind of thought that it was possible, especially when the wind and waves obeyed His command “Peace, be still”, or when He cast out so many demons, and healed people who had been crippled and maimed their whole life.
Jesus responded: “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jona, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” He was looking right into my soul.
“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
For the second time in my life I was speechless, I literally had nothing to say. All I could think of was my favourite song of King David that I used to sing when I was a little boy: “When I consider your heavens,/the work of your fingers,/the moon and the stars,/which you have set in place,/what is mankind that you are mindful of them,/human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4)
The Son of God was speaking to me, and I mattered. I was somebody to Him. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about with building a church on me or a rock, but we were standing on these formidable cliffs and he said the gates of Hades wouldn’t be able to withstand His power in my life. Wow!
The keys of the kingdom? Me? Forget about me, you just agreed that You are the Son of God! You’re the Ancient One, the Holy One, Wonderful Counselor, and the promised King of the line of David.
And then he sucked the air out of the room. I was about to plan the procession into Jerusalem and then he told us to not tell anyone he was the Christ. Okay, I get it, we need to buy some time, come up with a plan, get strategic—I can be patient if I have to.
But then he said something none of us expected, or wanted to hear, and it didn’t even make sense. “I must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed.”
I know he mentioned something else about being raised up on the third day—again, not sure what that means—but if you’re God, how can you die? If you’re what we’ve been waiting for, how can that end before we even got any Romans out of Israel. How is this the plan? So I told him that, and regretted it instantly; it really stung for a long time.
“Get behind me Satan! You are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” For the longest time all I could hear was his rebuke. Get behind me Satan?! Especially after all this talk about me and the church, and the keys of the kingdom.
Months later, I was able to really hear the rest of what he said that day, and it all mattered, and it was meant to all go together. “If anyone wishes to come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Now this was the “other last thing” that we really didn’t want to hear. He is calling us also to certain death, and death on a cross is horrible, it’s probably the most awful, slow, and painful way to die. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
I think once the sting kind of wore off, and especially once we saw how the rest of the story came together it made a lot more sense. I didn’t have the ears to hear anything past how Him being the Son of God was going to benefit me, and yet, what He called us to was something that He was going to walk through for us.
I was acting as Satan, not being a strong Rock but a stumbling block and tempting him to disobey the Father, and try to gain the whole world by keeping his life. But He said we also had to take up our cross, we had to follow him, and we had to lose our life for his sake. That meant giving up even more than what I already had sacrificed. But even if I could gain the whole world, my soul was not for sale. No cheap trade would be worth my life, and it cost him everything to ransom me.
We first wondered why we stood at those cliffs looking into the mouth of Hades, and we were overwhelmed by fear and death. Jesus showed us he was the Son of God, the true King, but the throne that he took was the cross, and his death shattered those gates of hell. His death bought us life!
I realized after this, that I am just as capable of falling on my face, even on my best day, and yet his love is so gracious and powerful, and when he speaks, and reveals himself, and when he moves my heart, nothing will ever be the same. I would give anything to follow him.
There is a lot to think about in this passage and next week Rusty will be sharing about how the Father further reveals who Jesus is on the Mount of Transfiguration. We will see again how God desires to reveal Himself to us, even though we don’t fully grasp, as it says in Luke 9:45, “the disciples did not understand (these things) and it was concealed to them so they would not perceive it until after He rose again.”
In many ways the apostles were always trying to wrap their head around who Jesus was, and even if they had all of the information it wouldn’t be more clear until the Holy Spirit allowed them to see it. They really did have to step out in faith with all of the unknown; and as everything was moving and changing Jesus was inviting them to follow Him with their whole hearts, to a deeper trust, and surrender. I believe we can find ourselves in their story as well.
So what about you? I believe Jesus asks each of this same question: Who do you say that I am?
What do you think? What have you believed about Him? What has changed about how you see Him as you’ve walked with Jesus?
For me growing up in the church, I have been very blessed to experience the love of Jesus, to know so much about Him, but I have also totally missed the mark so many times: I’ve projected my desire to please people and earn their acceptance through high achievement and perfectionism on Jesus. Somehow I believed that I had to do all of the work to fix myself or make myself more likeable to Him. He is still undoing those lies and changing how I see a God who loves me for who I am and longs for me to trust Him with everything.
I used to believe I had to hide from Him when He is my hiding place. He wants me to run to Him as He waits for me and runs after me as well!
Much like Peter, I might’ve known a lot of the right answers, but that didn’t always translate into childlike faith and trust. Only God can change our hearts: not principle, not sentiment, nor religion.
Like his closest friends, the Disciples, we have our own blinders, biases, and expectations, but we need God’s Spirit— taking God’s Word with God’s people—to reveal to us “God’s Word made flesh” in Jesus. We need this throughout all our lives. Now more than ever.
Who do you say that I am?
What do you tell your friends, your children, your relatives, and your neighbours about who Jesus is?
What do those conversations look like, sound like?
Do you remember the last time you talked about Jesus with someone? What did you hear yourself say?
What we believe about Him tells us a lot about ourselves.
I’ll leave you with this last thought from the Life Application Study Bible:
Was Jesus just a man with some good ideas, one of many spiritual leaders? Or was he the true God, the one mediator, our only source of life and peace with the Father? It is not enough to know what others say about Jesus: you must know, understand, and accept for yourself that he is the Messiah. You must move from curiosity to commitment, from admiration to adoration. If Jesus were to ask you this question, how would you answer? Is he your Lord and Messiah?