Last week we looked at God through the eyes of scripture. The Bible is God’s revelation of himself to the world, and if you want to know God you need to know what he says about himself. God says “I AM” – I am here, I am now, I am present. I have always been, I will always be – I created, I sustain, I rule, I love and I will judge this world.
But God’s greatest revelation of himself is in his son, Jesus Christ. If you want to know what God looks like, look at his son. In the Gospel of John, Jesus told his disciples, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” He said, “I and the Father are one.”
Without a doubt, Jesus is the heart of the gospel. He is the focus of all scripture. Everything before him points toward his coming. Everything after him points back toward his cross and his resurrection. All of creation now waits with eager anticipation to his coming again.
There is a fascinating exchange in John 12:20 in which some Greeks come looking for Jesus, and they make a request of his disciples –“we would like to see Jesus.”
And in many ways that becomes the call to the church: show us Jesus.
Those words drive us back to the words of Paul – 1 Cor. 2:1-5: When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
I am not a great preacher – I’m not in demand around the country to come and speak to gatherings of thousands. I get up every Sunday morning, hoping to say something that will touch one person and draw them closer to Jesus. But if one thing can be said of my preaching, “He showed us Jesus,” then I will be content. I would love to be eloquent, powerful, dynamic, but even if nobody ever says I’m a great preacher, if they can say, “He helped me know Jesus,” that will be enough.
Paul said there is one thing of greatest importance – “For what I received I passed on to you, that Jesus died for our sins according to the scripture, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
• Jesus is the foundation of our faith. If our faith isn’t anchored in Christ, we are doomed to fail and fall. As Paul wrote, “of all men we would be most to be pitied,” if Jesus did not die and was not resurrected. Everything else is peripheral. Christ is central and fundamental.
• It was not lightly that the Hebrews writer encouraged those discouraged, persecuted Jewish Christians, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus...”
• This morning, I want us to fix our eyes on Jesus.
On that cool morning in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus confronted that little rag tag group of disciples with a life-changing question, “Who do you say that I am?” He wasn’t asking for information, he wasn’t giving them a test – he was calling them to a decision. The time had come. He was about to set out on the most demanding last months of his ministry – ending in death. And he wanted them to make a decision – were they with him or not? This was the pivotal point of Jesus’ ministry.
There in Matthew’s Gospel, look at the pivotal placement of this confrontation. To that point, the disciples had wavered – their faith had been high, their faith had been low. Hesitantly, but not certainly, they were coming to understand who Jesus was and what he was about. But Jesus knows that wavering faith won’t make it through the events to come. And so the confrontation comes. Peter makes his tremendous statement of faith, and note what Jesus says about that statement – “Blessed are you Simon Barjonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father who is in heaven.”
The statement is made, the faith is confirmed and then in vs. 21, Matthew writes, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
And then in vs. 24, Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
What we believe about Jesus is significant. It cannot be an impersonal thing like balancing a spreadsheet or getting an “A” on a test. Not just that we have correct doctrine, but in terms of how we will live. Poor doctrine will always lead to poor living. How we understand Jesus is going to make all the difference in the world with how we treat people, how we honor our commitments, how we establish our priorities. So let me ask you a question: “Who do you say that Jesus is?”
He claims to be God
What was Peter’s confession? “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Of all the things that Jesus is, they all pivot on the truth of this claim to be God in flesh.
No Gospel makes us more aware of this claim than the Gospel of John:
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
1:18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
5:18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
8:24-28 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.
20:27-29 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
If Jesus can forgive sins / claim the rule of our lives as Lord / can go to prepare a place for you in heaven – it is dependent upon his being the son of God.
Every claim that Jesus made depended upon him being God in the flesh. And if Jesus were not God, then there would be no forgiveness, no lordship, he would be no Savior.
We would have been duped by the greatest liar and con man, or the sickest lunatic that ever lived.
But praise God his claims are true! Jesus is the one he claims to be and our lives are anchored in the surest of foundations. What will you do with a man who claimed to be God?
Jesus not only claims to be God…
He demands to be Lord
For Jesus, to be Lord is not just a title, but a claim of ownership in our lives. He is not just asking for respect and honor, but our absolute obedience and submission to his rule.
To be the Christ is one thing. It is the fulfillment of the promises of God from ages past that he would send a Messiah. It is God’s work and his declaration that Jesus should be the Christ. When we acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, we are accepting a truth that stands as a powerful rock, undiminished if we should fail to agree.
It is quite another thing to call Jesus Lord. Jesus is indeed Lord of all things, by power of creation and ownership, but that is really only part of Jesus’ claim to Lordship. God has declared his authority and his right to that position. Indeed, in 1 Cor. 6, Paul declares, “You are not your own, you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” When he wrote to the Roman church he said, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die we are the Lord’s.”
But, “Lord” is more than a title. It carries no saving grace without our individual acknowledgement, our individual commitment, our individual surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. What will you do with a man who demands to be Lord?
And finally…. He offers to be Savior
I choose my words carefully here – Jesus claims his place as the son of God / he makes his claim to the title of your life by the purchase price he paid / he offers to be your Savior.
While everyone will one day bow down and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, not everyone will be saved. The offer is to everyone, but not everyone will accept.
Jesus came to do one thing, “to seek and save the lost.” Only one thing could prompt Jesus to leave the glory of heaven and come to earth: Man was helplessly, hopelessly lost in sin – he needed a Savior.
Jesus accomplished many things in his earthly ministry. He taught us how to live morally, live ethically, taught us about the nature of God. He attacked the religious abuses of the day. In short, he taught us how to be better men and women.
All of this he did, but they all lie secondary to his one great purpose – to save us from our sin. And if your religion doesn’t do more than make you a good man or woman, and if your religion doesn’t bring you into a saving relationship with God, it is vain and worthless.
Jesus came to save all people, but not all people will be saved. It is not something that Jesus can or will force on anyone. And he calls every person who would seek this salvation to respond to that call. He offers, he pleads, but you must respond to the Savior.
• That is the essence of the message of John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that whoever believes…”
• That belief – not an intellectual acceptance – but a response of total obedience to the commands of Jesus.
One side note to our passage in Matthew 16 that is of great importance to the text.
• When Jesus said, “on this rock I will build my church,” he wasn’t speaking of Peter but of himself – on the sure foundation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
• Jesus established the church, not on Peter, but on himself.
• And what that tells me is that the church was not an afterthought – there is no “Jesus yes but the church no.” Jesus saw the church as fundamental to his purpose on earth. Paul clarifies this in his letter to the Ephesians: “Christ is the head of the church his body, of which he himself is the Savior.”
• What will you do with the one who offers to be your Savior?
And so we come back to Jesus’ question to his disciples and to us: “Who do you say that I am?”
• Until you acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, then really, no other claim to your life is of value. He cannot be your Lord, he will not be your Savior.
• But having acknowledged that, his claim for lordship in your life is inevitable. But – and here is the point of all this – unless you surrender yourself to his lordship, he cannot be your Savior.
• Having surrendered your life, he gladly bestows on you a gift that you could never hope to earn or purchase.
Whatever you do with Jesus, the one thing you cannot do is ignore him.
The people couldn’t ignore him – “No one has ever spoken with that kind of authority.” Some believed and became his followers. Others, though they heard, rejected him saying, “What good can come out of Nazareth… We know who he is. He’s just the son of the carpenter.” Others said, “whatever he is, he is certainly a prophet – maybe he is Elijah or John or Jeremiah brought back to life!”
The Pharisees couldn’t ignore him. They heard his words and knew that this man meant nothing but trouble for them. They tested him and tried him and finally had him nailed to a cross. But they couldn’t ignore him.
• I have one of the great miracles of modern technology in my very own home. You might have one too. It is a button on the top of my alarm that says, “Wait a few minutes.” And when that alarm clock goes off, I reach up and poke that button and say, “I’m not ready, try again later.” What a great invention!
• Unfortunately, I know too many people who hit that button with Jesus. They are confronted with the decision, “What about you, what will you do with Jesus?” And they say, “I’m not ready, try again later.”
• How many of us are living with an agenda for life that has stamped across every page, “Later, Lord.” We live with future intentions, half-hearted commitment, a convenient religion, but when Jesus comes to us with the question, “But you, who do you say that I am?” We only say, “Later, Lord.”
There is a painting of Jesus by William Holman Hunt. Jesus stands at a door overgrown and long unopened and knocks. There is no handle on the door and can only be opened from the inside, by the one whom Jesus is calling.
Rev. 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
Is he calling you this morning?