Who is Jesus?
Jesus is walking with his disciples in a place called Caesarea Philippi. It’s a beautiful place at the base of a mountain, near the source of the Jordan river. We find them in a moment away from the busyness of the town and away from the pressures of the people that often surrounded them. They have been travelling town to town, and everywhere they go these huge crowds show up. Each time that they stop, people are desperate to bring to Jesus those that are sick, blind, and diseased to be healed. On two occasions Jesus has fed thousands of people with barely enough food for a handful, he’s been rejected in his hometown, and each time he stops to minister to people, without fail, religious leaders show up to harass and cause trouble for Jesus and the crowds. And so we find them in this candid moment, just a group of friends spending time together. As they’re walking, Jesus turns to his disciples and asks them, “who do people say that I am?” The disciples throw out some answers; “some say you are John the Baptist, (people had heard of John but not many knew him), some say maybe you are Elijah or one of the prophets of old.” Then Jesus asks them, “who do you say that I am?” Peter speaks up, and he says, “you are the Christ, Son of the living God.”
When Peter says this, Jesus reacts with exclamation, he says “Blessed are you, because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And on this confession will my church be built!” This story is important, so important that three of the four gospels record this conversation. Because while Jesus is talking to his disciples that were walking alongside him, in a much larger sense he was talking to every single disciple that would ever walk alongside him.
This question, “who do you say that I am” is the most important question in human history. The way you answer this question changes everything in radical ways. Everything about your life hinges on the answer to this question. The implications of this question define how we see the world and our place in it. The world answers this question in their own way. Ask an unbeliever this question and you will get lots of different answers- they might say: Jesus was a wise teacher, he was a good guy, he was peaceful and wanted to help people, that he was enlightened. Some might say he was non existent, a myth, the culmination different religious figures rolled into one. Every year around Christmas and Easter, the history channel, discovery channel, they all run specials on who Jesus is, none of them pointing to the son of God. He’s always some radical religious leader they don’t quite understand.
As Christians, we know that the answer to this question is of utmost importance. It determines whether we know Jesus, or we just know about Jesus. Because if someone were to ask us this question our answers might be scattered as well. We might say, “well he was a carpenter, he was a rabbi, he was an amazing teacher, he healed people, He is the savior of the world. And while all of that is true, look at the simplicity in Peter’s answer. It encompasses everything about who Jesus is. You are the Christ (Christ means anointed one, chosen one, deliverer) Son of the living God (son of God meaning “of the same nature of God the Father, God made manifest in the flesh). You are God, the anointed one, the chosen one to deliver us. When we trust, and are faithful and confident in that, everything else dims in the light of who Jesus is.
I remember when I was applying to Bible college, I was sitting with the admissions board and they were asking me all kinds of things about my life, and why I wanted to go into ministry, my favorite hobbies, boring interview stuff. It was going fine, and we got to the end of the conversation and they asked if anyone had any other questions, this little old lady said, “let me ask you, who is Jesus.” I started thinking about it and I began to panic. I was like “what is happening here, is she trying to trap me, like is there some kind of answer I don’t know about?” And my mind started racing, I should be able to answer this question, what’s wrong with me, and nothing was coming out of my mouth! And I finally mumbled through some answers, about being a savior, and sin, and a cross, and it was pretty incoherent. But that situation really got me thinking about the things I say and the things I claim about Jesus. Because there’s a difference between knowing Jesus, and knowing about Jesus. We can know a lot about Jesus, and never really know him. If we know Jesus it fils our life with joy because our heart and mind is set on the one who set us free.
I’m a big hockey fan, New York Rangers fan all the way. My favorite player is Henrik Lundqvist, he’s the goalie for the Rangers. I know all about Hank; I know that he grew up in Sweden, he had played for the Rangers his entire NHL career, I know that he wears number 30, that last year there were 2036 shots taken against him, and that he saved 1862 of those shots on goal. I know that he had 26 wins with 2 shut out games. But here’s the thing, I don’t know Henrik Lundqvist. I know a lot about his career, and follow him on Twitter, but I don’t know the guy. If I saw him on the street and was like “Hank! What’s up man, and tried to follow him around, security is going to eventually drag me away.” And my fear is that some of us Christians know Jesus the way I know Hank, and that’s not at all, at least not in the ways that matter (Also Henriq, if you read this, I really would like to hang out sometime!)
When we know Jesus everything changes. The world looks different when we follow his commands, his teachings, and most of all when we want to share that with others. CS Lewis said Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. When someone claims to be your God the way Jesus did, you really only have two choices, right? You can reject the claim and continue on as if the world is about you, continue to live in your bubble, or you can accept it and live as if the world is about him. What you can’t do, at least for very long, is suspend judgment and just see how it plays out. Because to not give an answer, is to give an answer.
Peter’s confession should be our confession. Because when it comes down to it who Jesus is, is the only thing that matters. We have been called, and we have been sent into a world, a world that for the most part rejects who Jesus is, and we’ve been called to proclaim the good news of his life, death, and resurrection for our sin. You are to be salt and light, to be different, and to know Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.