Christmas 2016 – Christmas Q & A
4. Jesus Who…?
Matthew 16: 13 – 26
Beautifully decorated Christmas trees, with their bright and coloured lights, glittering tinsel and colourful ornaments — green and red wreaths hung on doors, children singing Christmas carols — poinsettia and other beautiful decorations — family and friends gathered to share this special time. These are all images which come to mind at Christmas. Christmas is a time of images.
Perhaps the most powerful image is the babe in a manger. The nativity scene is certainly the most well-known and wonderful image of this season. It reminds us that Jesus truly is the reason for the season. There we see Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and Wise Men, all gathered around a babe in a manger. While not altogether historically accurate, it is a wonderful symbol of what we celebrate this time of year.
But who was this babe born in Bethlehem? And who is He now? Isn’t He more than the babe in the manger? If you were to ask people on the street their opinion concerning who Jesus was, you might be surprised at the depth of ignorance concerning what the Bible says about Jesus.
It is vitally important to understand just who Jesus was and is. You see - Our view of Jesus and our understanding of Him determines our response to Him. If we do not see clearly just who Jesus is, then we will act upon erroneous information. Our lives will take a course based on a lie. No other individual has impacted the course of history and civilization like Jesus. It is therefore important that we understand who He is.
Jesus knew this. He understood that even His disciples might not understand clearly who He was. So He took them aside and led them through an important process of discovery. From this encounter has come the most important confession in history - READ
1. The Confession v. 13 - 16
On this leisurely night, Jesus gathered His disciples around Him. He posed an important question to them - v. 13b. This was the question of Jesus then, but this question is still pertinent for today. You see, there is no longer a Christian consensus in South Africa. In past days, people were raised with religious instruction. A greater percentage of our population went to church. Even in the schools, they were taught from a Christian consensus. While they might not have believed, they at least knew the facts. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Today, when the name of Jesus is mentioned, people’s minds are clouded with various conflicting images.
It is interesting to note that Jesus just didn’t tell His disciples who he was. He took the time to live it out before them. He wanted to show them who He was. The question was: Would they see?
It’s hard to tell what most of His disciples thought. v. 14 - they told Him what others were saying about Him. Some said He was John the Baptist; others, Elijah; others, Jeremiah; others, one of the prophets. There was a lot of opinion, then, about who Jesus was. There still is. Unfortunately, most people aren’t really sure who Jesus is. Some today think He was a good teacher, or a prophet, but that’s about all. But Jesus isn’t satisfied with that.
He turned the question to them - v. 15. Peter spoke up. He said - v. 16. Peter understood who Jesus was. He had watched Him for almost 3 years, and He saw. Because he saw, he confessed. His confession revealed that he believed Jesus was both the Messiah and God. He had come to this conclusion because He had an encounter with Jesus Christ.
That’s what the world needs today - to have an encounter with Jesus Christ. Only as the world is confronted by Him will they ever believe in Him. That’s why He lives in us. As we encounter people, we can bring them into an encounter with Jesus Christ.
2. The Commendation v. 17 - 19
Peter had gone further than most. He had not been content with hearsay. Peter wanted to know for himself. And, as a result of his search, he had received a revelation from God. And Jesus blessed him - v. 17. This is the challenge for all of us. The challenge is to meet with God, to seek Him, to experience Him, to hear from Him. This is how Peter received his revelation of who Jesus was. This will be how we will receive God’s truth today. As we seek to understand what God’s word means, we have to seek to hear from the Author of that Word. We have to have ears to hear.
Jesus blessed Peter because he had ears to hear, not because he was super-spiritual. Peter was far from that. Peter was an impulsive human being, full of faults, but his heart was right. He wanted to follow Jesus, although many times he didn’t understand just quite what that meant. But Peter had ears to hear, and those are the kind of ears we need to develop if we would understand God’s truth.
Notice what else Jesus said to him - v. 18. Peter had made a strong confession. Jesus now told him that upon the rock of the reality of his confession, the Church would be built. Here we have a play on words. The term Jesus uses for Peter is petros. This means "a small rock." The term Jesus uses for "rock" is petra, which means "a huge mass of rock."
It was the rock of the reality of Peter’s confession upon which the Church would be built. It was certainly not Peter himself. Peter was full of faults, as we will see in this same passage. But the confession that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and the Divine Son of God points us to the only true foundation upon which the church can be built — Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus said that the gates of Hell itself, would not prevail against the Church. A church built upon Jesus as the Messiah and the Divine Son of God will never be overcome.
Notice what else Jesus said in v. 19. Jesus gave to Peter the keys to the kingdom. What are these keys? I believe the keys to the kingdom is the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. You and I hold the keys today. The Church of Christ is in possession of these keys. The Gospel message is the key which will unlock the door of the Kingdom to all who care to use them.
3. The Contradiction v. 20 - 23
In v. 20, we have Jesus warning His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ. It’s strange - It seems like a contradiction. Why would Jesus want them to know who He was, and then for them to keep it a secret? Answer - v. 21. We see here that another event must take place in Christ’s life. That event was His Cross.
The truth Jesus is revealing is that He would not be preached without the Cross. The Gospel is not just the Divine Son of God living out His life on this earth as a good example. The Gospel is the sinless Son of God dying as the Lamb of God on the Cross. Jesus would not be preached apart from His Cross. The message of the Gospel is the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the Cross. His death for our sin cannot be left out of any Gospel message. He will not be preached apart from the Cross.
But Peter balked at this. In v. 22, we see Peter rebuking Christ. There would be no Cross for his Christ. You see, Jesus dying on the Cross didn’t make any sense to him. Peter was relying on his reason and he thought he was doing right, but in fact he was rejecting the will of God. A person can reject the will of God and think he is doing right.
This was serious business to Jesus - v. 23. This is a powerful and strong statement. Jesus was speaking figuratively. He was saying that Peter was speaking like Satan. Peter was setting his mind on man’s interest – opposed to the will of God.
How close heaven and hell can be in a human soul is revealed by Peter’s reply. Many today want Christ, but not His Cross. But Paul said he was determined to know nothing but Christ, and Him crucified. There can be no following of Christ which bypasses His Cross. There was a contradiction in Peter’s mind. There can be in ours as well. To overcome that contradiction we must come to the foot of His Cross and lay our lives down as an offering to Him.
4. The Condition v. 24 - 26
The condition of discipleship. We see, in v. 24, that Jesus made the Cross a condition of discipleship. In other words - The Cross is more than an event in history, it is a way of life. It is a principle of life for every believer. Jesus talks about us taking up our crosses and following Him. What does that mean? It means that there must be a daily commitment to follow Jesus Christ. We must see ourselves as constantly living for Him. To "take up our Cross" means to daily submit to His will for our lives, and to allow Him to live His life through us.
To take up the Cross of Christ means renouncing my life and finding my life in the life of another, Jesus Christ. In v. 25, we read…. This is the only way, really, to find true life. It sounds like a paradox, and it is. It is one of the many paradoxes in Scripture. We must lose our life to save it. If we seek to save it, we will lose it. In other words, we must give our lives to Jesus, and in return, He will give us His life.
You may be saying, "Well, who will take care of me? If I give my life to Jesus completely and surrender my life to do His will, how will I get what I want out of life?" We like to consider what we want. But for all we might get in this life, it is never enough. It never satisfies. Look at v. 26. We may gain the whole world, but if we lose our soul, we haven’t gained anything. Only in Christ are we satisfied. Only in Christ do we find purpose. Only in Christ can our lives have true meaning and true fulfilment.
This is the condition of discipleship. It is the daily taking up of our cross and following Him. For Christ, the Cross was the cost of salvation. For us, the cross is the cost of discipleship.
Who is Jesus to you? Is He a Jesus of your own design? Or is He the Master of your life? Is He only the Christ of history? Or is He the living, reigning Lord? Is Jesus only a part of your life? Or is He your whole life? Is He your Lord?
I pray that you may see, today, not only the babe in Bethlehem, but also the Son of God, Who died for you on the Cross, and Who lives today to live in you and through you. And I pray that you can say, like Peter, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" because you have seen it for yourself. And I pray that you’re willing to bow at His feet and surrender your life to Him, to live for Him, to daily take up your cross and follow Him. As you do, you will find forgiveness for your sins, freedom from the guilt of sin, courage to face your problems, hope for the future, and power to live a renewed life full of joy and peace.
This is the real message of Christmas.