Who Do You Say I Am?- Matthew 16:15

In this verse, Jesus asks His disciples a very particular question, a question which turns out to be the most important question ever asked, a question which every human being must ultimately answer, and a question to which our response determines our eternal destiny. We will begin our discussion in verse 13, in which Jesus asks His disciples “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The term Son of Man was Jesus normal means of referring to Himself, so he is actually asking them who people say He is. The disciples respond by telling Him who their fellow Jews said He is, telling Him that: “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” All of these answers have one thing in common: they are all seen by Jewish tradition and teaching as accompanying Messiah when he comes. Some said John the Baptist for some believed He was the martyred John resurrected to life, as Herod believes in Matthew 14:2. Others saw Him as Elijah, returning as the forerunner to messiah prophesied in Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6. Others saw Him as Jeremiah, returning with Messiah to usher in the Kingdom of God as prophesied in the apocryphal books of 2 Maccabees and 2 Esdra. Still others saw Him as one of the prophets who had not died but ascended to heaven (Elijah or Enoch), who it was commonly taught would return to accompany Messiah. All of these views basically have one thing in common, they all saw Jesus as a prophet and a man of God, but only saw Him as the forerunner to messiah, not as messiah Himself, they all saw Him as a Holy man, but as just a man, not as God incarnate, not as the Son of God. Jesus then asks His disciples directly who they say He is, to which Peter responds “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter here sees Jesus not as the forerunner to messiah, but messiah Himself, not as merely a prophet and holy man, but as the divine Son of God. Peter sees Jesus as He really is, Peter’s identification of Jesus accords with reality, and Peter is commended for this by Jesus, commended for seeing and accepting the truth about who Jesus really is. The question which Jesus asks Peter here truly is the most important question ever asked, and it is a question which will be asked of every human being. Our eternal destiny (heaven or hell) truly does depend upon our answer to this question, upon who “we” say Jesus is. What is truly mind boggling in all of this is the fact that Jesus has left the answer up to each of us, He has given each of the us prerogative of defining who He is. The question asked here is not who Jesus actually is, but who we say He is. Jesus is objectively the divine Son of God regardless of what any of us say about it, this is the “reality” of things, but God has given each human being the prerogative of being able to deny reality, to at some level determine reality for him or her self. Jesus allows each of us the freedom to determine for ourselves who we say that He is, and our reaction to Him will be based upon our definition of Him. Those who see Him as a “prophet, good teacher, holy man, spiritual guide, ascended master, etc.” will live as though He is just a man. a man who gave us some good principles to live by, but not as the eternal Son of God, not as the one who ultimately determines their eternal dwelling place. The fact that our reaction to Him will be based upon our definition of Him is also true of believers as well, we will live out who we say He is. This is why theology is critically important for the believer. Our theology is our understanding of who God is, and our theology, who we say Jesus is, determines the way we live. If we define Jesus as anything other than who He truly is, we will live lives which are not pleasing to Him. Some see Jesus as merely savior and not Lord, and they will live as though He is their savior who will come and take them to heaven when they die, but in the meantime they will live however they please, they will be their own “lords”. There are others who see Jesus as their “buddy”, their non-judgmental friend who does no more than agree with whatever they decide, who “loves” and “accepts” everyone and merely wants us to learn to get along with each other and make this world a utopia. There are still others who see Jesus as the heavenly Santa Claus, as some kind of genie in a bottle who we call on to get us out of trouble and bring us goodies, then put Him back in the bottle when we are finished with Him. All of these arise out of our answer to Jesus’ question, they all derive from who we say He is. If we see and understand Him as He truly is, as the divine Son of God, as God incarnate, as the Sovereign Lord, Creator and Judge of all, then we will live accordingly, with Him as our sovereign Lord before whom we must one day stand and answer for all that we do. God has given every human being the privilege and responsibility of answering Jesus’ question “Who do you say I am?” The answer to this question is the most important response any of us will ever give, for our response to it ultimately determines the course of our lives, both here and now and for all eternity. It is our prayer that all believers may embrace a correct theology and see Jesus as He truly is, for only then will we live accordingly.

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