"The Son of the Living God"
13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ???Who do people say that the Son of Man is???? 14And they said, ???Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.??? 15He said to them, ???But who do you say that I am???? 16Simon Peter answered, ???You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.??? 17And Jesus answered him, ???Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.??? 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.??
From the moment Jesus began His ministry, He was teaching. Every event, every circumstance, every experience is a moment where, if the disciples are paying attention, they can learn something very important. But they are not just learning anything. Every thing Jesus does points to the Father. Each lesson is a lesson about who God is and what God expects of us as His children, which is to follow after the example of Jesus.??
The reason this is so important is because the things we say and do reflect who we are. Remember last week when we learned that these things come from our core, from our heart. And the good we see in Jesus comes from His heart, from the heart of God. This is the same heart that is meant to be created in us as we become followers of Jesus Christ.??
Now, if the lessons we learn from the example of Christ are meant to reveal who God is so that we can grow in relationship with Him, then our scripture will begin to make a little more sense than what we read on the surface. Jesus has asked the disciples who the people think He is. There seems to be lots of opinions going around. The things the disciples are hearing seem to be positive. People are getting close in their understanding of who Jesus is. He's being seen as John the Baptist, the man who caused a ruckus in the desert with his wild preaching and his baptizing; he's being called Elijah, the mighty prophet who performed many miracles, healed people, and was even taken up by God into heaven while still alive; and He's being called Jeremiah, the one who lived and preached during some of the most trying times of Jewish history, following God relentlessly throughout every turn.??
But Jesus isn't any of these people. The public has their ideas and their opinions, just like the world does today. Jesus is a sage, a wise man, a great teacher, MAYBE even a prophet of God. Just about everybody has an idea about who Jesus is, but an 'idea' is not enough. Knowing this, Jesus turns to a more important question, Who do you say that I am? The reason this is the more important question is because of what Jesus is trying to do. Jesus is creating a community???disciples, learners of God's way that will teach that way to others.??
And so its of the greatest importance that the disciples know who Jesus is. Wrapped up in the person of Jesus is the salvation of humanity; the payment for our debts to God, the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus is the love of God in the flesh, Emmanuel, which means God-with-us. This is what people are to know and understand when both the disciples (and even us today) fulfill the great commission in Matthew 28, to go in to all the world, teaching others to obey all that Christ has commanded us. And so, the question is before them, Who do YOU say that I am? Boldly, Peter steps forward in our text, proclaiming You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God.??
Now, I want to sidetrack a moment in order to explain the significance of Peter's confession that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. Our text says that Jesus and His disciples arrive in Caesarea Philippi. This town is important because of its history. Wars were fought here. The name of the town was changed to glorify Caesar and his son, Philip. For hundreds of years and may be more, the town was the site of ancient worship of other gods and goddesses. There was a well known Canaanite temple to the god Ba'al here at one time. Even more well known was the temple of Pan, the goat-like god of Greek mythology, who's shrine is still an historical site today, and most likely somewhat active in Jesus time. The disciples know this. This is no secret to them. They are well aware that the area they are in a land that is filled with other faiths and other
But Peter's confession begs several questions that, at the end of the day, we all have to wrestle with: Who are these gods? What have these gods done for the people of the world? Have they created the heavens and the earth? Have they placed the stars in the sky? Have they redeemed the world and saved its people from their sin? Peter's confession reveals more than just knowledge. Peter's confession of Jesus as the Savior, as the Son of the Living God is his recognition that God is a living God, not a dead and silent idol. Peter's testimony is like that of his ancestors, who were lead by Yahweh throughout the ancient world. Peter's God is the One whom brought down fire before the priests of Ba'al when Elijah prayed, and Ba'al's priests ran.??
The Living God is a God of hope, who is trustworthy and faithful. God is a God who saves, who delivered His people out of Egypt. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords; the God who, through Jesus Christ, is now walking with them every step of the way, all the way to the Cross, where He will lay down His life and pay a price that only the One, True, Living God, can pay. And then He will defeat death and bring new life into an old world.??
And so, this Living God is making a new community and He's starting with the disciples. This new community, called the Church, begins on the shoulders and backs of the apostles and is carried forward throughout the ages, proclaiming the good news that Jesus Christ saves. With this knowledge, Peter is called a rock and his confession becomes the foundation from which all knowledge and teaching springs forth in the Church. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.??
Jesus' gives Peter the keys to the kingdom, and what Peter binds will be bound and what he loosens will be loosed. This language is the language of Rabbis, referring to teaching and authority. This does not mean that Peter stands at the gates of heaven letting some in and others not. This means that Peter and the others are now the keepers of this great confession and truth. They are to bind this confession of who Jesus is to their hearts and loose this teaching upon the world.??
And as this truth of Jesus' identity is let loose into the world, the gates of Hades will not prevail against God's Church. The gates of Hades means the gates of death, not an eternal punishment. This statement means that the power of God will defeat death, as seen in Jesus' resurrection. The authority of the Church is that it gives eternal life through Christ, preventing the death from overcoming it.??
And so the question is turned upon you this morning, who do you say that Jesus is? Is He just a character in an old book? Is He just one god among many, like Buddha? Is He just wise like Confucius? Is He just a kind example like Gandhi? HOW ABOUT… Is He just the God your grandparents worshipped? Is He the One your friends tried to tell you about? Is He someone you turned your back on years ago because He didn't respond on your your timetable? Is He a friend that you stopped praying to? OR… is He God Almighty? the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Prince of Peace, the Son of the Living God???
Who is Jesus to you? And if you know the answer to that question, will you teach that truth to others? Will you live out that truth as a testimony to faith? This Living God is putting together a community; a people who puts love at the center of their hearts and shows other people the Way through their lives. Peter wasn't perfect, we know this from reading about Him. But if Peter can be the rock God uses to begin this community, then I promise their is a place for you. May the Living God be with us today. Amen.??
Written with Essay on iPad