2005.08.07 Who Do You Say That I Am
Sermon: Who do you say that I am?
August 7, 2005
I heard a radio clip on the new Christian radio station a few weeks ago, maybe some of you have heard it also, it goes like this. A police officer conducts a vehicle stop on a female motorist. He approaches the vehicle and before the officer can say a word the female driver is complaining as to why she got pulled over when the other guy cut her off. The officer calmly requests the driver’s licence from the female. She is still complaining to the officer and being somewhat uncooperative. The officer obtains the driver’s licence and then requests the vehicle ownership. Still complaining about being stopped the female does provide the vehicle ownership and asks again why did you pull me over? The officer checks the documents and responds, “so you own this car” to which the female replies emphatically, “yes I own this car, why did you pull me over” The officer says, “well maim I noticed the ‘Jesus is Lord’ and ‘WWJD’ bumper stickers and then I heard you shouting obscenities at the other driver – I naturally assumed that the vehicle must be stolen – my mistake have a nice day.” Ladies and Gentlemen, are your actions matching up with your words (who you claim to be). In this situation I just described, could you imagine if this woman truly is a Christian and didn’t just buy the car with the stickers already on there. She would not be able to move after that subtle yet timely rebuke. I was told when I first started policing that you either give someone a ticket or a lecture – not usually both (there are always exceptions). This situation would definitely be a ‘no ticket necessary’ situation – I think she got the message. What do others say about you? Some of us will be true in our actions in regard to what we claim, others may have strayed from our claims (hypocrite), and some may never disclose to others their belief. More importantly what does Christ say about you? Good and Faithful Servant or depart I do not know you – as Pastor Kevin said a few weeks ago there is a line that divides – you are either with Christ or you’re not, there is no maybe or I’m not sure – you’re either His or you’re not. This morning we are going to look at our individual response to Jesus’ question “Who do you say that I am? Basically, who is Christ to you and how does that affect the way you act, the way you live?
Turn to Luke 9:18
v.18 - Jesus is asking His disciples what others’ are saying about Him. The disciples were sent out at the start of Luke 9 to share about the Kingdom of God and heal the sick in various towns. If we do a quick scan of the text prior to this point we would see that Jesus has healed the sick and the unclean, He has taught and preached, he feed the 5000 just previous to our text. Jesus tells John’s disciples in Luke 7:22, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them”. In fact, Jesus in Luke 5:24 claims to the scribes and Pharisees that he is God. Jesus said to a paralyzed man, your sins are forgiven. The scribes and Pharisees called this blasphemy and said who can forgive sins but God alone? They were right that only God can forgive sins, but they again rejected to accept Christ as the Messiah. So Jesus says to them, so that you may know the Son of Man (me, Jesus) has the power here on earth to forgive sins. Jesus’ words were an explicit claim of divine authority. And there are more examples that we are not going to discuss, but after all this Jesus asks the disciples, Who do the crowds say that I am? v.19 Repeating other’s words/views is easy – it requires no commitment to their views. You don’t have to be connected to what others say, you are just repeating it. The disciples are just repeating what others are saying about Jesus. There were some in the crowd that did believe that Christ was the Messiah – not all were in disbelief. But there were many who were. So why was the crowd confused about Jesus? Jesus was claiming to be himself all the while. The crowds did not know/accept Christ for who He claimed to be (and really was – and is today and forevermore) due to their expectation of the Messiah. The Messiah to many was going to be a political or military leader who would be able to rescue them from the Roman rule. They wanted someone who was charismatic, boisterous, and lively to lead them on. Matthew 12:18-21 is a quote of Isaiah 42:1-4 that Pastor Kevin mentioned a few weeks ago…”Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory; and in His name Gentiles will trust.” The Scriptures indicate the demeanor of the Messiah to come. Gentle not quarrelsome, meek not boisterous. Opening up justice to the Gentiles – this is not what the crowds were expecting. The crowds were hoping and expecting falsely (selfish in nature and temporal they were not thinking long term they were thinking of the here and now and of themselves). They did not recognize the true Saviour even when he told them who he was. He didn’t fit their selfish false expectations so Jesus must be John the Baptist (raised from the dead with head attached), or Elijah who was whisked into heaven – this is who the crowds said He was.
You know what I found interesting in preparing for this message I read Scripture where the crowds did not know Christ but the demons knew He was the Christ. In Luke 4:33, 41, 8:28. The demons knew the power that Christ exerted over them and His authority by which this power came from. The crowds were around for these healings and Jesus even silenced the demons for they knew that he was the Christ, yet the crowds still were confused. Amazing.
Then Jesus transitions with the disciples from the indirect question of who do the others say that I am to a direct question – “Who do you say that I am?” You who have been with me for some time now, who have witnessed my power, who gave you power to heal – who do you say that I am. Peter – who do you say that I am, John – who do you say that I am, and so on. Now the disciples are not just repeating other’s views, now they are committed and involved – this is their true belief verbalized in front of Christ. Peter speaks up and said, “You are the Christ of God” or the Messiah of God. In Matthew Peter’s response is recorded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus goes on to say “Blessed are you Simon, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” v.21. Does that statement seem a bit confusing, when in the start of Luke 9 Jesus sent out the disciples to preach the Kingdom of God and heal the sick and now they are strictly warned, not try not to tell anyone or just keep this between the bunch of us, not to tell anyone. Jesus did not want the disciples’ confession to hinder his mission. In Mark 1:44, Jesus had just healed a leper and strictly warned him and said, “see that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest…However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in the deserted places…”. All this attention might hinder Christ’s mission and His message. As a result of the leper’s disobedience Christ was unable to enter the city without being mobbed. Jesus gives a little insight to the disciples as to why he does not want them to tell everyone saying, v.22. Jesus knew the timing of His mission and requests that the disciples keep it to themselves. Of note, this is the first time that Jesus clearly explained to his disciples that he would be killed and raised again. Earlier Christ did say that the Bridegroom would be taken away, however in v.22 this when Jesus let’s the disciples in on His purpose here on earth to die and be raised again.
Between verse 22 and 23 is where a huge transition occurs. Jesus is basically saying to His disciples, now that you have confessed with your mouth that I am the Messiah – let me explain to you the process or the acting out of this verbal confession. Let me tell you how this plays out in real life. If you want to go on with me this is what it will require…v.23.
If anyone desires, if anyone longs, if anyone has a passion to come after me, to serve me or to become a Christian - let him deny himself. The Greek word for ‘deny’ means to ‘refuse to associate with oneself’. John MacArthur says in regard to this, ‘the thought is that if you want to be Christ’s disciple, and receive forgiveness, and eternal life, you must refuse to associate any longer with the person you are! You are sick of your sinful self and want nothing to do with you anymore.” Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” You have to relinquish the desire to be self-sufficient & self-centred. Denying oneself requires self-hate. The idea of self-hate came from Luther and his 95 theses at the start of the Reformation, he stated, “self-hate remains right up to entrance into the kingdom of heaven.” I’m sure that each one of us could think without too much effort of a time recently (maybe this morning) when we have been selfish. We think of ourselves all the time, putting ourselves ahead of others and more disheartened we are putting ourselves ahead Christ our Saviour. Self-centredness is truly idolatry, because we are putting ourselves ahead of Christ, we are occupying the most important place, which rightly belongs to Christ. I read in book recently of a well-known Sunday morning preacher whose church services are televised, who commented that the self-esteem of evangelical Christians is lower than the average American. So he criticized the Reformation preaching which taught exactly what I’m telling you this morning about denying yourself, that you left to your own devices are selfish and wicked and that we have to turn from ourselves and cling to Christ – who is our hope of salvation. This preacher thinks that self-esteem is more important than what the Bible says. That we need to lift up our people and build them up so that they can function in this world. Well let me tell you, I was not designed to be the most confident person in this world; I will rely on Christ as my strength, not building myself up, rather humbling myself to be used by God. The backbone of the seeker sensitive movement revolves from this well-known preacher; just preach those messages that are comfortable, uplifting and encouraging. Well this morning’s message can be uplifting and encouraging – it just may mean that we have to dispose of ourselves first and take on Christ. We need to place all of our dreams, hopes, visions, plans, ambitions & passions and place them at the foot of the cross willing to lose all of them if they are not what the Lord has planned for us. We need to relinquish them to Him and take back those things that the Lord deems as worthwhile in His strength.
This leads us to the second part of verse 23, ‘take up our cross daily’. To take up our cross daily means that we have to be willing to identify with Christ even to the ultimate point of physical death. Not only do we have to deny ourselves, but we have to clothe ourselves with Christ, identifying ourselves with Him through the good and difficult times in our life. You see people all the time identifying themselves with various things, whether it is wearing a Leafs jersey to show support for that team or a person wearing a wedding ring on a certain finger which identifies them as being married. We as Christians need to identify with the cross. We have a different view of the cross then those of the 1st Century. The cross was for criminals, the contemptible, the despicable, and the scum. To think that a Saviour would eventually die on a cross was an absurdity and absolutely unimaginable. So to take up your cross – to associate yourself with the Jesus to the point of dying this terrible, shameful, and repugnant form of death would be foolishness to many, but if you want to serve Christ you will be required to surrender to this form of treatment if necessary. 1 Cor 1:18 says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing”. Although at this point in Luke Christ had not died on the cross – He was commanding followers that daily they must be willing to die to themselves and identify with Christ and being willing to so love Him that they would go to their own cross and die in support of him. You’ve heard the term ‘die-hard’ Leafs fan, well in practicality that does not truly exist, but we are called to be die-hard followers of Christ and we will not give up, rather we will persevere and submit to Christ alone.
In the last part of v.23 Jesus says “follow me”. Christ is our example. If we look at the start of our text today we v.18 it says, and it happened, as He was alone praying….Jesus took time alone to pray to know His Father in heaven intimately and to know the will of His Father in heaven. How many of us diligently take alone time with God that is untouchable each day (aside from an emergency) that time is set apart and we guard it. If we do not treasure that time, then from experience I can tell you that there are some days where the alone time gets squeezed out. I had a seminary professor who taught me something that had nothing to do with the course material but I will never forget it…(tell the story…) He valued his alone time with his Saviour. Not only did he value his alone time but also the alone time for his wife. Here is a man who is truly shepherding in his home. Both of them were prepared for the day. Following Christ requires obedience. We need to be obedient in reading the Scriptures, in prayer time, in meditating and memorizing Scripture and fasting. In 1 Cor 9:24,25 Paul says, Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run is such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” Are you in strict training to serve Christ? Are you running to win the prize – a closer relationship with Christ? If you think of how you spend your time are you being productive in following Jesus. It seems today that we are so busy in this world that spending time with Christ is one of the first things on the chopping block. I saw some years ago stamped on a professional baseball players bat the Scripture 1 John 2:17 and I’ve held onto it. It says, “For the world and its desires will pass away but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” Are we communing with God enough to know His will for us? Jesus obviously valued his alone with His Father desiring to remain obedient to Him. We ought to do likewise. Jesus reminds us about obedience in John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” Isn’t that awesome. We need to obey Christ. Following Christ requires obedience. However, disobedience with repentance does not disqualify you from following. What I’m saying here is that I recognize that we are not perfect and we will sin and fall out of line, but it is imperative that we seek Christ’s forgiveness and repent (turn) from our sin and return to that right relationship with Christ. Let me share with you an incident that took place last week on my way to church…..
-physical need addressed / spiritual need neglected.
-I did not deny myself, take up my cross, or follow Him
-Maybe if I have of spent alone time with Christ I would have been more prepared for that encounter. Peter also denied Christ, but repented and went on to be one of the most influential leaders of the earlier church.
Let me share with you one last Scripture in regard to following Christ. It is Joshua 1:8, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth, meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Explain……
Then maybe our actions can be matched with our words or claims. The lady driving the vehicle that was stopped by the police that was mentioned earlier could have used that verse – just like all of us could each and every day.
v.24 – This verse in different variations is mentioned throughout Scripture several times. This paradox truly relates back to denying oneself, surrendering all of oneself, and gaining Christ. If we are self-sufficient trying to do things are own way we miss out on eternal life. There is no room for self-reformers as Pastor Kevin mentioned last week. You cannot achieve eternal life by your good works.
v.25 – What profit is it to have fame or money or anything that will eventually pass away and in the very process forfeit eternal life? The message we receive from the world is the total opposite of this verse…..the world says ‘you only live once’ so get all you can while you’re here. We know that is not true.
v.26 – to be ashamed in the sense of refusing to willing acknowledge Christ as Saviour and Lord – he is talking about the unbelievers. This being ashamed does not apply to the temporary wavering that Peter (and I) was guilty of but rather of the sin of those who through fear, shame, neglect, delay or love of this world reject all evidence and revelation and decline to confess Christ as Lord and Saviour. The line is there, either you’re with Jesus or you’re not; either you’re ashamed of Jesus or you’re not.
Each one of us needs to visualize Jesus asking us individually, “Who do you say that I am?” There are only two responses, either you will respond that Jesus is Lord and Saviour or he is not. For the unbeliever the Scripture is clear that He will be ashamed of you when he returns and you will be lost. For the believer, does your confession match the fruit displayed in your life. It’s not just going to be our verbal response that matters. It is going to be our confession of faith coupled with a transformation in our heart, being Spirit filled – followed by a life of acting out that faith – the denying of ourselves, taking up our cross daily and following him. If Jesus was in a police car and pulled you over would he think your vehicle was stolen or would he greet you and say well done thy good and faithful servant?