Who Do You Say I Am? (Matthew 16:13-20)
As a kid, I had a horrible speech impediment, and every word I said began with an “h.” At this time Dad was working for Coca-Cola instead of preaching. Every year we boys loved the company picnic because we got to play fun games and win fantastic prizes.
One year, at the picnic, when I was about 7 or 8, the company hired some young college kids to play games with the employees’ kids. We three Imel boys lined up, and, since I was the oldest, some college kid asked me for our names. I answered, “Hustin, Haron, and Hyle.” To make matters worse, Mom didn’t say a word, and we three boys were called Hustin, Haron, and Hyle all afternoon.
Have you ever been called by the wrong name? Maybe your mom or grandmother had to go down the list of all your siblings and cousins and even pets to get your name right. Maybe on the first day of school you always had to answer to a name other than what you prefer to be called. Maybe your siblings called you by a name you detested. Maybe you despise your name.
But your name is your identity, and in this morning’s passage, Jesus asked his disciples about his identity. After the disciples gave various answers, Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This morning, we wish to learn this truth: “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Scripture (Matthew 16:13-20)
When “Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’” Caesarea Philippi was a very pagan city; there was a shrine dedicated to the Greek god Pan and a temple for the worship of Caesar. Therefore, this was the last place where you would expect to learn a divine truth. But maybe that’s the point—Jesus, as the Son of the living God, is the Lord, not those pagan deities.
Jesus referred to himself as “the Son of Man.” That messianic title comes from Daniel 7:13-14 where one “like a son of man” came before the throne of “the Ancient of Days” and received a kingdom.
The disciples answered as the people of their day were answering—Jesus was certainly one of the prophets. Most common Jewish people expected prophets to return before the coming of the Messiah.
Jesus asked the disciples who they considered him to be, and Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” “Christ” means “Anointed One.” In the Old Testament, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed, and Jesus is prophet and priest and king.
“Son of” was an expression in Hebrew to mean that someone was one thing or another. For example, “son of man” means that one is a man. “Son of the living God” means that Jesus is himself the living God. In pagan territory, Peter affirmed that our God is living, not made of wood or stone or bronze like some pagan statue.
Simon, son of Jonah, was blessed, because he had not learned Jesus’s identity from any human means, but from God who lives in heaven.
Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter. Contrary to what you might have heard, “Peter” does not mean rock. The Greek term refers to a stone, a little pebble you could put in your pocket.
Jesus would build his church “on this rock.” The Greek term for “rock” refers to a cliff by the sea or a boulder, something which would make a firm foundation. The rock in this context seems to be the confession Peter had just made, viz., the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
“The gates of hell shall not prevail against” the church. That’s a horrible translation. The word “hell” is “Hades,” the unseen realm of the dead. Jesus meant that his death would not prevent the church’s construction, for he would be raised from the dead.
Jesus gave Peter “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Keys open doors. Peter opened the door of the kingdom to the Jews when he preached the gospel at Pentecost, and he opened the door of the kingdom to the Gentiles when he preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household.
Whatever Peter bound on earth would have been bound in heaven, and whatever he loosed on earth would have been loosed in heaven. Jesus used the singular here; in this context, he only gave Peter the authority to bind and loose. The Greek grammar shows that what Peter bound or loosed on earth would have already been bound or loosed in heaven before he said anything; Jesus only gave Peter the authority to announce what God had already bound and loosed. Peter was simply made a spokesman.
Jesus strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. Throughout the gospels, you find Jesus often telling folks not to reveal his identity. Why? The best solution seems to be that his time had not yet come; had he allowed folks to reveal his true identity, he would likely have been crucified before he could teach and prepare the Twelve.
This morning’s truth is one you know well: “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” You have confessed that truth before men. How can we, therefore, apply the truth that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” to a congregation of mature believers?
You must first Decide who Jesus Christ is to you. Granted, he is the Christ, the Son of the living God, whether you accept him as such or not. But you need to make up your mind who he is in your life.
Peter went a step beyond Jesus as the Christ when he opened the doors of the kingdom: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). The word Lord means master, and you must decide if Jesus will be Lord of your life. Will he have priority:
- Over your desires?
- Over your family?
- Over your career?
- Over your finances?
- Over your recreation?
- Over your thoughts?
Have you truly decided to make Jesus the Lord of your life? Is he your master, your sovereign, your Lord?
You do not sit on your decision, but you Do, i.e. you act. Because Peter believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus gave him work to do—i.e., to open the kingdom of heaven and to announce what God had bound and loosed. Peter had to Do, and you need to do.
Believing Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God, without acting on that faith does no good. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Js 2:14, 17).
If you simply Decide that Jesus will be the Lord of your life and Do nothing with that decision, you’re wasting your time. Noah didn’t simply decide that he would serve God, he built an ark. Abraham didn’t simply decide that he would serve God, he left Ur and he sacrificed Isaac. Moses didn’t simply decide that he would serve God, but he went to Pharaoh and told him to let God’s people go; Moses then spent 40 years leading God’s people to the Promised Land.
What will you do?
- Will the way you act on your desires reflect your decision to follow Jesus?
- Will the way you interact with your family reflect your decision to follow Jesus?
- Will the way you handle your career reflect your decision to follow Jesus?
- Will the way you spend your money reflect your decision to follow Jesus?
- Will the way you engage in recreation reflect your decision to follow Jesus?
- Will the way you entertain your thoughts reflect your decision to follow Jesus?
What will you do because you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God?