Who Do You Say I Am?

Home Church Devotional 11/14/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.                                                 Matthew 16:13-20 (NASB)

The question that Jesus poses to His disciples is the most important question any person will every have to answer. The answer to this question will shape your worldview, how you look at yourself, how you treat others and, most importantly, it will determine your future. Throughout the history of humankind, Jesus is the most divisive name ever spoken. Mention the name of Jesus in a crowded room and the reactions are sure to be swift and varied. Our passage today follows an attack on Jesus by the Pharisees, a miracle healing and the feeding of four thousand, so the question Jesus asks the disciples is both timely and purposeful.

Jesus and the disciples head northeast away from Galilee, perhaps seeking some quiet spot to teach His disciples what they must learn in a very short time. The come to the district of Caesarea Philippi, approximately 25 miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee. The area is governed by Philip the Tetrarch, one of three sons of Herod the Great. It is an area known for its worship of Baal, then to the Greek god Pan and then, finally, to Caesar Augusta.

Your view of Jesus will determine who or what you worship.

1). There is the popular view that Jesus was a great man, a great teacher and a great prophet.

The ancient name for the district of Caesarea Philippi is Banias or Panias, taking its name from the grotto beneath the mountain that was the reputed birthplace of the god Pan. Pan is the most famous fertility symbol in paganism, he was the legendary god of nature and his worship became important to those living in his birthplace.

The same mountain was the source of the River Jordan, the land around them was filled with temples of classic pagan religion and towering above them in the beauty of its white marble and massive size was the new temple dedicated to the emperor whose name the city bore – Caesar. This was the place Jesus chose to test the disciples and see what they really understood about Him.

Jesus begins by asking the disciple, “Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?” The disciples provide three popular views among the people. First, some say He is John the Baptist raised from the dead. Perhaps this view is revealing a strand of superstitious belief in reincarnation among the people; tis view came from Plato and a few other Greek philosophers. Second, some say He is Elijah, considered to be the greatest teacher and prophet of all time, who was predicted to be the forerunner of the coming Messiah. During the Passover celebration, a chair is left open for Elijah.

Thirdly, some say He is Jeremiah a recurring prophetic voice recalling Old Testament prophets who had been rejected by Israel. It was believed that Jeremiah would return to earth before the Messiah and bring the tabernacle, the ark and the altar of incense. Like Jeremiah, the crowd felt that Jesus was revealing very important things about God and religion.

We have our own pagan religions to deal with today. Many of the Eastern religions and mysticism have invaded the church and our culture. There are masques and shrines for all sorts of false gods found throughout our country, not to mention the “mega-church” movement that feeds the prosperity gospel found in far too many churches today. We build massive sports arenas to house the games we played as children, now turned into a multi-billion-dollar industry; we feed our hunger for success with massive high-rise buildings dedicated to our stock market, stock brokers and giant banks. Our television commercials tell us “mother earth” cannot survive unless we step in and help her; commercials abound to stop animal cruelty while we fight to kill our unborn children. And still, we insist that man is the ultimate being on earth and will only get better and stronger. We even have an entire city built for sin and what happens there…stays there, or so the saying goes.

Your view of Jesus will determine who or what you worship.

2). There is the Christian view that Jesus is the Son of Man, the Christ and the Son of God.

Peter, now answering for the group, goes far beyond what the people say about Jesus, as they recognize Him as someone connected to the end times. Peter claims Jesus to be God’s final self-disclosure. Jesus has come, says Peter, to fulfill the hopes of the nation. Only God can reveal God, To see Jesus, a simple carpenter, despised by many, as the Son of God, the Christ takes a revelation from above.

The preferred title Jesus uses for Himself is Son of Man and in response, Peter provides two more titles, the Christ and Son of the living God. The title Son of Man assumes nothing. It could allude to the one given the everlasting kingdom, power and glory or, it could simply mean, in the Aramaic language Jesus was likely speaking, “I” as in “I Am.” This title could mean nothing, or it could mean everything and that is exactly why Jesus liked the title.

The title Christ or Hebrew Messiah, meaning anointed one, soon became attached to Jesus almost as a surname. He became Jesus Christ rather than Jesus the Christ. In Judaism it meant the one who would come and fulfill the hopes of the nation. There were three types of people who were anointed with oil: prophets, priests and kings. Like the priest, Jesus connected people with God; like the prophet He showed people what God was like; and like the king Jesus exercised God’s rule over God’s people while uniquely being the Servant of God. Jesus did all of these and He did them perfectly!

The title Son of the living God has added significance given the setting in which Jesus asked this pointed question. The area is filled with worship of Ball, Pan and Caesar, but Jesus is uniquely the Son of God who IS alive, not like those mythical, superstitious figures etched into the stone. Jesus, as the unique Son of God is testified to at His conception, at His baptism, at His temptation and during exorcisms recorded by Matthew. Jesus is continually laying claim to a unique relationship as the Son of God.

Jesus is the high priest who stand before God the Father interceding for those who have placed their faith in Him. He alone can make intercession for us because He alone has experienced all we struggle with in our fallen humanity. Jesus is the prophet who has come and given all people the full revelation of God in the flesh. As the Word who put on flesh, Jesus stepped into human history to become the visible representation of the One who was unseen. Jesus is the king who rules over God’s people and will establish His soon coming kingdom where He will rule in peace throughout eternity.

Your view of Jesus will determine who or what you worship.

And so, we all have a choice to make. Will you choose the popular view of Jesus as a great man, a great teacher or a great prophet? This is the view of those who look around and find themselves surrounded by the lure of this world. As you look around it becomes clear that the popular view amounts to worship of the created, self-worship and idol worship. Choose your poison wisely!

Or will you choose the Christian view of Jesus. If we take the time to stop and look at the world around us, look into the faces of those we pass by each day or pick up your dusty Bible and open the pages, you just might find Jesus in each of these places. As you look around it should become clear the Christian view identifies with Jesus in His humanity, knows the need for a Savior and worships the Creator God. The choice is yours.

Jesus is asking, “Who do you say I Am?”

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