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Well, the weekend is over and Father’s Day has come and gone. I pray that your weekend was rewarding, restful and relaxing. In the last few days we have been looking at questions asked in the Bible. Today, we come to a question that Jesus asked His own disciples. It is found in Matthew 16:15, “But who do you say that I am?” (ESV). This question is part-2 of a previous question Jesus asked His disciples in Matthew 16:13, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (ESV). It is not that Jesus Himself needed to know because He already knew the answer. 

 This first question by Jesus actually brings to an end Jesus' teaching ministry. After three years, Jesus gives His disciples an oral examination. These two questions that Jesus asked is a question every single human being must answer for themselves. In fact, these are questions no one can avoid, escape or run from in life. For His whole ministry, Jesus had been teaching, affirming, demonstrating and re-demonstrating Who He was especially to His 12 disciples. For the past several months, Jesus had basically avoided the crowds and the Jewish leaders. The people, seeing His miracles, wanted to make them their political Messiah to free them from the throes and enslavement of Rome. The religious leaders saw Jesus as a threat to their religious system of rules, rituals, regulations and manipulative control.

 Luke 9:18 says this, “Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, `Who do the crowds say that I am?’” (ESV). Jesus’ question to His disciples comes after He had spent time alone praying. So, before asking His disciples these two questions, Jesus spent some time alone in intimate fellowship with the Father. In Matthew 16:13, Jesus refers to Himself as the “Son of Man.” This was the most designation Jesus used of Himself and it is used some 80 times in the New Testament. 

 This reference was an Old Testament title for the Messiah as found in Daniel 7:13, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him” (ESV). Every religious leader and Jew knew this term, “Son of Man,” was referring to the Messiah and his humanness. So, Jesus’ question to His disciples was not an issue of what the people thought, but what His own disciples’ perception of who He was based on popular opinion. 

 Well, we find their answer in Matthew 16:14, “And they said, `Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets’” (ESV). Maybe not the Messiah, but the Messiah’s forerunner returned from the dead. Or Elijah reincarnated. Elijah was considered by Jews to be the supreme Old Testament prophet whom the Lord would send again “before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5). Even today, in conservative Jewish homes, during Passover, in hope of Elijah’s return one day, an empty chair is placed to remind them of Malachi 4:5. 

 Some say, “Jeremiah,” the second most revered prophet in Judaism. In one of the apocryphal books — a book that did not make it into our Bibles, 2 Maccabees 2:4-5 says this: 

“It was also in the same document that the prophet (Jeremiah), having received an oracle, ordered that the tent and the ark should follow with him, and that he went out to the mountain (Mt. Nebo)  where Moses had gone up and had seen the inheritance of God. (5) Jeremiah came and found a cave-dwelling, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense; then he sealed up the entrance. (6 ) Some of those who followed him came up intending to mark the way, but could not find it. (7) When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: “The place shall remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy. (8) Then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses, and as Solomon asked that the place should be specially consecrated.”

 It was a long held belief in Jesus’ day that it was the prophet Jeremiah who had saved the Ark of the Covenant and preserved it from the Babylonians. Some Jews thought that before the Messiah returned to establish His kingdom, Jeremiah would return to earth and restore the Ark and the altar to their proper places in the Temple.

 So, let’s put this into perspective. Pastor and author John MacArthur says this:

“Some of the people perhaps saw in Jesus something of the character and message of John the Baptist. Some saw in Him the fire and intensity of Elijah; and still others saw in Him the lament and grief of Jeremiah. In all three of those identities, however, Jesus was thought to be only the Messiah’s forerunner, who had come back to life with God-given miraculous powers” (Source: John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, “Matthew,” p. 19).

 We learn from Luke’s Gospel that some of the people simply saw Jesus as another prophet in line of all the prophets. Look at Luke 9:19, “And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen” (ESV). This means in each case, the people did not consider Jesus to be the Messiah, but His forerunner or messenger. They could not deny the miracle Jesus did nor His supernatural power, but they did not accept nor see Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ. They came close, but not close enough.

 This has been true historically of others:

  •       Pilate said, “I find no guilt in this man” (Luke 23:4). 
  •       Napoleon said, “I know men, and Jesus was no mere man.” 
  •       Diderot referred to Jesus as “the unsurpassed.” 
  •       Strauss, the German rationalist, as “the highest model of religion,” 
  •       John Stuart Mill as “the guide of humanity” 
  •       The French atheist Renan as “the greatest among the sons of men,” 
  •       Theodore Parker as “a youth with God in His heart.” 
  •       And Robert Owens as “the irreproachable one.” 

These are merely accolades and titles that do not identify Jesus fully Who He is — the Messiah, God in human flesh. His disciples having enjoyed answering this question, Jesus turned to them and asked them who they personally thought He was. Peter gave the right answer in Matthew 16:16, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (ESV). Knowing and giving the right answer is not the same as living it.  Peter will soon deny 3 times any affiliation with Jesus in Luke 22:54-62. Something Jesus told Peter he would do in Matthew 26:30-35

Questions To Consider

  1. If you say Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord, what evidence is there in your life to prove it?
  2. Claiming something as true is not the same thing as living it out. Peter made a vow to die for Jesus in Matthew 26:30-35, but when pressed a few days later, Peter denied any affiliation with Jesus in Luke 22:54-62. Like Peter, when are you most vulnerable to either deny Jesus or not to live out your faith consistently?
  3. Jesus is very polarizing. Has any discussion about Jesus with family or friends or co-workers or neighbors caused tension or arguments for you? How did you handle it?

 Scripture To Meditate On: John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, `I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (ESV). 

Prayer To Pray: “Dear Jesus, help me to live my life unashamed of my faith in You. Help me be Your light to this dark and sinful world. Please grow fruit in my life that proves to others I love You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and that I love Your church and the lost. Please forgive me when I deny You either in private or in public. Thank You for not being ashamed of me. I love You Jesus. In Jesus’ name, Amen!”

 I love you Southside!—Pastor Kelly

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