Following the Messiah
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Who is Jesus?
Who is Jesus?
John the Baptist- John had been such a powerful presence he had a lot of moral authority with the people. People were shocked by what he would say to powerful men who ignored the ways of God. But after hearing him say it with such conviction, I think they were equally shocked when a king being accused of terrible behavior had him put to death. It was rumored that he would return to bring judgement. People heard even more authority in Jesus’ voice. He was also willing to speak truth to people in power. So many people made the connection. Maybe this is John returned to take on the authorities with truth from God’s Word.
King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” Others said, “He is Elijah.” And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”
For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.
It was all based on this Old Testament Prophecy:
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
So this was saying John had fulfilled the prophecies concerning an Elijah like figure who would appear in the time of the Messiah inaugerating the end times.
But others were saying that the literal Elijah for ancient times would come and walk the earth again. John was quick to say that wasn’t him. So some people said Jesus must be him...
Elijah- Elijah had left this world in a whirlwind surrounded by chariots of fire.
So there was a ton of mystery based around him. It wasn’t a prophecy that the historical Elijah himself would walk the earth again, but the common people speculated about it.
One of the prophets- Almost everyone recognized that Jesus was a prophet of some kind. He spoke with authority unlike others in his generation. There are always a ton of people claiming special authority to speak for God. A lot of them are crazy. If you try hard enough I think you can tell the difference. Jesus was definitely different.
So people had lots of opinions. Some of these were pretty informed opinions. Unlike a lot of people today, people were interested in religious tradition. They listened and tried to learn all they could. That connection to the past is being lost. Morality is being rewritten in sand. It’s not going to hold up. I think the church needs to be patient during these days rather than fearful. Eventually people will begin to realize what’s missing and what’s not working.
Who is Jesus? Well, he’s unique. There’s a quality to his life and teaching that really can’t be matched. You would do well to get to the bottom of that question, who is Jesus?
Who do you follow?
Who do you follow?
We all follow someone. It’s how humans are wired. So the question isn’t do you follow, it’s who do you follow. There’s more and more research that humans learn from what they see acted out over and over again. You are following those you look at and listen to most often.
This is I think the greatest challenge for humans today. We are bombarded with imagery, much of it completely unhelpful. If you’re not consciously choosing who to follow then it’s being decided for you by the people you work with, hang out with, watch on TV/Netflix. A lot of us bingewatch shows on Netflix and such. Nothing necessarily wrong with it. But if the world presented is completely at odds with the Kingdom of God, we will begin to be drawn away by repetitive viewing. Some things should only be viewed occasionally. Some really shouldn’t ever be viewed. But just as it’s easy to fall into old patterns, we can establish new ones with God’s help and help from our church family.
Political news can turn us into a worldly pundit for a political party. Limit how much you take in.
How do you follow?
How do you follow?
If we say we want to follow Jesus it’s important to consider how we follow. Like I just pointed out we can follow lots of things by accident. But we really can’t follow Jesus by accident. It requires a choice. It requires intention. It requires discipline. It requires help from the grace of God. It requires deep connection to the community of faith. Every choice we make takes us closer or further away. If you’ve found yourself far away and needing to reconnect, you can. That’s the other thing about human beings. We can change our ways with help.
Jesus is the Messiah
Jesus is the Messiah
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
What is a Messiah? Good question. A Prophet who tells the whole truth about God. A true King who starts a new kingdom. A Savior who forgives our sins and helps us change.
Israel had kings who always fell short. Just like our modern leaders often do. But they knew they needed leadership. The time of the Judges reminded them of this. So they longed for a true king who would come and set things up as God intended from the start. Jesus fulfills all those longings. Today, we too are looking for a worthy leader.
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
Jesus is truly worthy. Jesus resolves the problem of evil as he took upon himself the sins of the world and made a way for us to live in new ways. God is Good! Jesus is worthy. He’s worth following.
How to Follow Jesus
How to Follow Jesus
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
We deny ourselves
We take up our cross- it’s upside down to how this world thinks. We embrace suffering (I’ll have more to say on that…) Peter wanted to correct Jesus. Look, Jesus this message will never get you elected. You gotta put a little pizazz into this. Help people get what they want. He’s going to advise Jesus. Isn’t that cute? We try the same thing all the time… Jesus is pretty firm. Don’t try to get out in front of me, Satan—tempter. Don’t try to lure me away from my mission. Get behind me. From there you can follow a whole lot better!
We follow Him— by reading and listening to the good news in the Bible. This is important because we get to see people in action seeking to live out their faith. What they get right and what they get wrong. We also need to pray. Not just giving God a laundry list or bucket list. But worshiping and honoring God. Listening to God, too. We need to be in Church where we can rehearse this story every week! This way it gets deeply imprinted on our minds and hearts. It’s easier to avoid temptations this way. Plus it’s just good to literally see each other. Seeing and being seen when we gather are just more important than we ever realize.
We can be with each other during the week. We can serve others together. When we serve alongside others something deep is activated. Our faith becomes part of who we are. It becomes bonded with our relationships. There is great value in long term ties with your church family. It will make you a better Christian in ways that go beyond what you can see.
Being a follower of Jesus also means sharing the good news. As we saw last week, it’s a secret too Good to keep!
There’s nothing you have worth more than your very life, your very heart. If you try to hide it away and hold too tightly it will slip right through your grasp. If you give yourself fully to Jesus and do His will, you will find live springing up again and again in you like a fountain. I can’t explain it, but I have experienced it. So can you.
Who are you following? Some Netflix crime fighter? An athlete? A sex symbol? Lift your eyes and let Jesus lift your life. Our lives could be about many things, my friends. But if we seek God and help each other, we can figure out how to truly Follow the Messiah into the fullness of the Kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the same world we live in, but we all things made new. Oh, that’s what I want to see. If we look in the right places we can see it.
Confess your sins. Leave the old ways. Deny yourself. That means saying no to selfish things so you can say yes to God. Then take up your cross. That means be willing to suffer. Don’t waste too much time worrying and wondering how your circumstances could be different. Live the life God gave you: struggles and suffering. Believe God can see you through it all. Be willing to serve. Find the joy.
Follow Him. In the Word. In prayer. In service. In fellowship. In telling the story.
Following the Messiah. Don’t get out in front trying to tell Jesus how to do it. Get behind Him. Truly follow. Will you help me? I’ll try to help you. I believe God will help us get there. Do you? Let’s pray....