Our lives are filled with questions.
Some of the questions we are faced with are mundane and routine.
· What am I going to wear today?
· Where do you want to eat ?
· What do you want to watch on television?
These aren’t questions that have long term importance in our lives.
Some of life’s questions are just plain unanswerable.
· Why do women open their mouths when they put on eye makeup?
· Why do men refuse to stop and ask for directions?
· If nothing ever sticks to Teflon, how do they make Teflon stick to the pan?
· What was the best thing before sliced bread?
These are questions that really don’t matter.
But, some of life’s questions are terribly important.
· Will you marry me?
· What will we name the baby?
· Doctor, what are my chances?
These are all questions that have lifelong implications.
In this passage, Jesus asks two questions that are eternal in nature. The first question has to do with what others say about Jesus. Their opinions of Him reveal the condition of their hearts. Their answer to His first question shows whether they’re saved or not.
The second has to do with your personal opinion of Who Jesus is. Your answer to this question will determine where you spend eternity. So, it’s important you carefully consider how you answer this question.
Let’s look at this conversation between Jesus and His disciples. I want to focus on the questions Jesus asked His disciples that day, because these two questions continue to be of the utmost of importance in the world today. In fact, they’re of the utmost importance in your life and mine.
Let’s pray, read our text and consider the questions, Jesus posed.
And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
The first question Jesus asks is a probing question.
We are told that Jesus and His disciples are in the “villages of Caesarea Philippi.”
This was a predominately Gentile area located some 25 miles north of Bethsaida where Jesus had just healed the blind man.
It is here that a spring issues forth from Mount Hermon that forms one of the tributaries that becomes the Jordan River.
This was a beautiful area steeped in pagan religion.
· In earlier times, the city had been called “Balinas” because it had been a center of Baal worship. Baal was the Phoenician god of fertility and nature.
· Later, the name was changed to “Panias” because the Greeks believed that their god Pan was born in a cave in the hills above the city, at the foot of Mount Hermon. Pan was a half-goat, half-man god who was believed to be the guardian of flocks and nature.
Caesarea Philippi also contained a marble temple, built by Herod Philip, to honor Caesar, the Roman Emperor, who was considered to be a god. The citizens of this city were required to enter this temple, at least once per year, place a pinch of incense on a burning altar and proclaim, “Caesar is Lord!”
It was here, in this city devoted to the worship of idols and manmade gods that Jesus chose as the place to make a fuller revelation of Himself to His disciples. It was also here that Simon Peter saw for the first time that Jesus Christ was truly the Son of God.
His first question was: “Who do people say that I am?”
Jesus knew what people were saying about Him. He wasn’t paranoid or seeking the praise of men. Jesus intended to use the opinions of the people to cause the disciples to think about their own opinions of just Who Jesus was.
The disciples answer His question by telling Him what they’ve been hearing people say.
28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”
Let’s take a minute to break their response down.
John the Baptist
John the Baptist
Jesus certainly resembled John the Baptist in His preaching. Both men preached a message of repentance and righteousness. But many people had seen Jesus and John together, so this is kind of strange to me. Of course, Herod Antipas believed that Jesus was none other than John the Baptist raised from the dead. That’s probably where that theory came from.
Others believed that Jesus was Elijah raised from the dead. This makes a little more sense, because both Jesus and Elijah conducted a ministry that was marked by clear, convicting preaching and convincing miracles.
One of the prophets
One of the prophets
Others believed that Jesus was “one of the prophets.”
This was a long list that included Moses, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and many others.
· Like Moses, Jesus declared the Law of God.
· Like Isaiah, Jesus preached about sacrifice and holiness.
· Like Daniel, the message of Jesus was a prophetic message of a coming King and His kingdom.
· Like Jeremiah, Jesus carried out a ministry marked by compassion and brokenness. He was, after all, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isa. 53:3)
· Like Hosea, Jesus loved the unlovable and was willing to redeem lost, wretched sinners.
That’s what the people were saying, but other voices were also expressing their opinions about Jesus in that day.
· The Pharisees and other religious elitists of the day said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” (John 10:20)
· The Scribes, the men viewed as great teachers of the Law, said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” (Mark 3:22)
· The Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jewish religion, said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” (Matthew 26:65–66)
· His Own family said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21)
· Even as Jesus hung on the cross, giving His life a ransom for sin, the religious elite continued to express their opinion of Him, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” (Mark 15:31–32)
Not every voice in that day was lifted against Jesus. Some people knew Who He was and proclaimed Him openly.
· John the Baptist got it right
· The Angels got it right
· Simeon got it right
· Anna got it right
· The dying thief got it right
· The Roman Centurion got it right
· The blind man got it right
· Bartimaeus got it right
· The crowds outside Jerusalem got it right
· Even the demons got it right
That’s what some of the people were saying about Jesus. So, what are they saying about Him in our day? Just as it was in the days when Christ walked the earth, there are a multitude of opinions about Who He was and is.
· The Muslims say that Jesus was a moral but dead prophet.
· The Hindus believe that Jesus was a good teacher but didn’t die for sin or rise from the dead.
· The Jews believe that Jesus wasn’t the messiah. He was either a misguided rabbi or a dangerous revolutionary.
· The Mormons believe that Jesus was the result of God having physical relations with Mary and is a separate being from God.
· The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was once the Archangel Michael before He came to the earth. In their view Jesus is not God in the flesh.
· The atheist denies that Jesus ever existed at all.
· The agnostic just doesn’t know what to believe about Jesus.
· Society believes that Jesus was a great teacher; that He had some good ideas about loving your fellow man and being good to others, but they do not believe that He is the Savior, or that He is God in the flesh. Most people acknowledge His existence, but they refuse to bow to His authority or give Him the worship He deserves.
We’ve heard the theories and thoughts of men concerning Jesus. Before we leave this behind, we need to hear one more opinion. Listen to what God in Heaven has to say about this man called Jesus.
· When Jesus was baptized by John in Jordan, God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
· When Jesus was transfigured, God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5)
If God the Father says that Jesus is His Son that’s good enough for me!
The first question Jesus asks is a probing question. The second is a personal question.
After listening to His disciples tell Him what others say, Jesus asks them for their opinion. He’s heard the public opinion, now He wants to hear their personal opinion.
This is the moment of truth!
Everything Jesus has taught them and shown them has been leading up to this moment in time. Every miracle was leading to this one. Every word of truth Jesus spoke was bringing them to this crossroad. Their response to this question would let Jesus know how effective His personal ministry to these men had been.
Jesus simply asks, “But who do you say that I am?”
It’s a simple question, but it’s filled with eternal implications. The right answer lead to Heaven; the wrong answer leads to Hell.
Peter, as usual, spoke for the whole group. Peter said, “You are the Christ!”
He got it right! In Matthew’s account of these events, Matthew says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
There in Caesarea Philippi, against that backdrop of paganism and false religion, Peter saw in a humble, homeless carpenter from Nazareth the very essence of God Himself. Peter looked at Jesus and saw the Messiah, which is what the word “Christ” means. It is a title and not a name. It literally means “The anointed One.” Peter also saw Jesus as the “Son of God.”
What a statement of faith! It’s even more amazing by the fact that up to this point, only God and demons have recognized the identity of Jesus.
Of course, Peter did not come to the knowledge on his own.
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
The Lord’s identity was revealed to Peter by God Himself. This is true in every genuine conversion. No one is saved by the persuasive opinions of others. People are saved when their spiritual eyes are opened by the Lord. He gives them the faith to believe.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Peter’s declaration lets us know that Peter was a saved man. He knew Who Jesus was and he openly confessed Him. Peter was saved, but not all of the disciples were.
In that group that day stood a man by the name of Judas Iscariot. He probably believed what Peter said in his head, but he never acted on that belief in faith. Judas died lost.
This just reminds us that your opinion about Who Jesus is, is a very personal thing. No one can speak for you. No one can believe for you. In the end, it doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say about Who Jesus is; it all comes down to Who you believe He is.
Your answer to this question is absolutely vital to your salvation. How you answer that question will determine where you spend eternity. Jesus is still asking, “But who do you say that I am?”
What is your answer?
Maybe you’re like the atheist and you don’t believe in Jesus or God. You’re willfully closing your eyes to the facts that are all around you.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun,
Maybe you’re like the agnostic; you just don’t believe that anyone can be sure about these kinds of things. Look at the changed lives all around you and understand that people do not possess the power to make such radical change; it is a God thing.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Maybe you hold to some of the false beliefs of the cults and other religions regarding Jesus. Here is the truth:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”
Maybe you think Jesus was just a great teacher or a great leader of men. You believe He existed, but not that He is the only Savior of men.
Listen to what C. S. Lewis said about people who believe like you.
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or he would be the devil of hell.
You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.
You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”
Peter believed Jesus was God, Lord and Savior, and he was saved. Eleven of the disciples believed Jesus was God. Lord and Savior and they were all saved. Millions have believed the same thing about Him over the last 2,000 years and they’ve all been saved.
The issue today is, what do you believe about Jesus?
You’ll make a choice about Him today. You’ll either receive Him or reject Him, but you’ll make a choice concerning Jesus Christ today.
If Jesus were to look you in the eye today and say “Who do you say that I am,” what would your answer be?
Could you say, “Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I believe You are the Savior of the world. I believe You are my Savior.”
Or would you have to say, “In spite of all the evidence, I reject You Jesus. In spite of what the Bible says; in spite of what God says; in spite of what millions of believers say; I will not receive you into my heart and life.”
How you answer His question will determine where you will spend eternity. Where will it be? Will you go to Heaven? Or, will you go to Hell?
What is your final answer? Who is Jesus to you?
Do you know Him?
In verses 30, Jesus told His disciples to tell no one. He did this because it wasn’t the right time yet. If they had gone throughout the land preaching that Jesus was the Messiah; opposition would have grown so great that Jesus would have been unable to complete His mission.
Today, His mission stands completed and He commands us to tell the world about Him. That’s what I have tried to do today.
A popular game show has the host ask each participant the same question before they show them the answer to their question. They always ask: “Is that your final answer?” The idea being that the contestant still has time to change his or her mind.
Before you even take time to think about it, answer this question: “Who is Jesus to you?”
What is your answer? Is He your Savior? Is He your Lord?
Is that your final answer?
Is He a great teacher and leader of men? Is He a good example? Is He a myth?
Is that your final answer?
If you can honestly say that Jesus is your Savior and the Lord of your life, then you should praise the Lord today. If you have any other answer, you need to know that there is still time to change your answer. If you have never trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior, you need to do that today. If He is calling you to come to Him, now is the time to do just that. If He is speaking to you, listen to His call and come to Him.