Matthew 16:13-20 – The Unavoidable Question That Must Be Answered

Posted: January 15, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 16:13-20
Peter Says Jesus Is the Messiah

Have you ever had a subject that you that wanted to avoid dealing with at all cost? Have you ever had someone asked you a point blank question that you did not want to answer? Sometimes, there are questions that we must answer that we do not want to because the answers will reveal where we stand on certain subjects or situations, or the answer will hurt someone’s feeling, or the answer will have devastating effects on someone’s life.

Recently, in the rash of school shootings that have plagued our country, there was one in Colorado where the shooter asked a very pointed question. The answer to the question determined whether you were killed or whether you were just wounded. He asked the question, “Are you a Christian?” If the victim answered, “yes”, the shooter shot them point blank in the head. If they answered, “no”, the shooter shot them in the leg. After that tragedy, many said the bravest person was the second person who answered yes to that question since they would have already known what happened to the first person who answered yes. In our country for the most part though answering yes to this question has no consequences and we can give a half-hearted answer and we can live half-hearted lives saying that we are Christians. In many parts of the world, answering yes to being a Christian can have devastating effects on your life. In predominantly Muslim countries, it can get you killed or at the very least it will cause you to be ostracized from society and prevent you from earning a living and it will cost you to be charged exorbitantly high taxes. In other parts of the world where there are communist governments like in China and North Korea, claiming to be Christian can get you jailed or killed. Here in the United States, the tide is turning against us as well, though it is subtle. We are not treated poorly, yet, by society (except in the shooting noted above) but the change is there. Now, we live in a nation that tolerates anything. To stand for Christian principles is to be intolerant of our societal tolerance. In our world today, we try to avoid there being tough choices and no absolute rights and no absolute wrongs.

In order for there to be anything goes, we must make Jesus one of many options. Whatever you believe is OK as long as you believe in something, right? Simply by sheer logic though, not everything can be acceptable and right at the same time. So, we will ultimately at some point in our lives confront the real issue of whether Jesus Christ is the Son of God or not. At no later than life’s end, we will have to confront this issue. No more avoiding it. There is a right answer and a wrong answer and eternity hinges on the answer. Jesus confronted His disciples with this very question in Matthew 16:13-20. Let’s read this passage together:
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

There are some interesting points that we need to consider in this passage that are as applicable to us today as they were when this scene from Matthew occurred some 2,000 years ago. First, many today consider Jesus just one of many great religious founders and not some unique Son of God. Second, seeing Jesus Christ as the Son of God requires faith that some are not willing to give. Tomorrow, we will consider the final two verses of this passage and what they tell us but for today, let us consider the faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

Who do you say the Son of Man is? Some of the disciples avoided the hard question by quoting what other Jews thought of Jesus. They repeated what they had heard rather than considering the question for themselves. Many today think of Jesus as just another prophet. He is one of many avenues to heaven. Jesus has to be just another prophet in this scenario. If Jesus is something greater than Muhammad, something greater than Buddha, something greater than Krishna or Brahma or Vishna or the many other gods of Hinduism, something greater than Confucius, or any of the new age amalgams of all of these belief systems that we have fashioned for ourselves. We live in a Gospel According to Oprah society. In our society, in order for us to living in an all is acceptable society, a what works for you as long as it does not hurt me society, Jesus must be just another prophet. He cannot be God in the flesh. He cannot be the right way, the only way. With Jesus as God in the flesh, God come down to earth, that means what He says is the real deal. If Jesus is just one of many options, then we can pick and choose what we want to believe. This Muslim idea works for me. This Hindu idea works for me. This Christian idea works for me. This Buddhist idea works for me. We have no trouble with the picking and the choosing. If Christianity has a hard idea that I don’t want to deal with because it is in opposition to my lifestyle, well, Jesus is just one of many ways I can just throw that hard idea away and pick up something from Islam to cover that area of my life, or something from Buddhism. It is a menu of options that we can pick and choose from. In that way, Jesus HAS to simply be a man. He has to be simply a radical rabbi. He has to be simply be an anti-establishment revolutionary. With him simply being only a man, with him simply being a verifiable historical figure, we can proceed to believe what we want to believe. That makes the whole thing easy. I can live the way I want to because with this menu of Mohammed, Jesus, and all these other guys, I can pick and choose what works for me. In that way, with us in control like that, it makes us kind of our own gods. We decide what is truth. We decide what is moral. We decide what is right. We are our own gods when we live a menu-driven religious existence.

However, then, if Jesus is just a dude, one of many dudes we can believe in, then we have some deep-seeded issues that we either have to deal with or ignore. Jesus confirms here that He is the Son of God. Peter declares it and Jesus confirms it. If Jesus is just a dude, then, wow, He is a pretty big lunatic with delusions of grandeur, right? Jesus says throughout the gospels that He is unique. Jesus says throughout the gospels that He and the Father in heaven are one – meaning that they are of the same essence and that they are one and the same thing but acting in different functions of the same thing. Jesus says I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by me. Jesus did not say that He was one of the ways, that there was multiple kinds of truth, and multiple ways to achieve life. He said He who has seen Me has seen the Father. He said He had come down from heaven not to do His own will but that of the Father. Before Abraham was born, I am, He said. Make no mistake about it Jesus said He was God by these statements. Once we take in the full force of all these passages, there can be no doubting that Jesus was clear. He was the Messiah, the Christ and the Son Of God. Though we may not like Lewis’ three choices, it seems we cannot escape their reality. Jesus really did make these claims, and so we owe it Jesus to either worship Him as God or dismiss Him completely. You can’t accept part of Him. It’s all or nothing. It was not possible for Jesus to be just a good, human teacher. According to CS Lewis, in his book, Mere Christianity, when someone claims to be the Son of God, we really only have three options – he thought he was but wasn’t (he is a lunatic), he knew he wasn’t but said it anyway (he is a liar) or he was telling the truth (he is not just a man; He is Lord). If he is liar or a lunatic, then he is not “good” in the sense that we should follow any his teachings. Liar, Lunatic, or Lord. These are the options. The final option is that He is Lord. That He is the only way. That He is not one of many options. As Peter said, You are the Son of the Living God, the Promised Messiah. That takes faith. Jesus Christ as God in the flesh. That takes faith. I can prove that Jesus existed. It is commonly accepted by historians that He did exist. I can show you how other religions acknowledge His existence. The dude was real. He walked the earth. However, it takes faith to believe that He is the Son of God. Why do I believe that? Because this historical figure Jesus Christ said He was the Son of God. There were disciples and enemies that attest to his miracles or could not dispute them. His Word has remained intact and unchanged to this day. People have lived and died for the answer to the question of who He is. We know all that. But it takes faith. As I have said before here, I can take you 95% of the way to the cross based on historical references and through logical reasoning but that final 5% requires faith. Peter came to faith and recognized Jesus as who He said He was. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, our eyes are opened and Jesus is revealed as the Son of God. What an amazing moment it is when we finally see Jesus as more than a mere man but rather as God in the flesh who loved us so much that He set aside His glory and came down from Heaven to live the perfect sinless life so that through His death we could be reconciled to our Creator. Then, it all becomes clear. There is only one way. There is only one truth. There is only one life.

How do you answer the question that needs an answer? Your eternity depends on it. You can dismiss it by saying that Jesus is just one of many options. But at the end of our time on earth, we will be judged by our answer. Yes or No. Jesus is the Son of God or He is not. What is your answer? The question of a lifetime, huh? Our whole existence comes down to the answer to this question? Saying that it is a question that does not need to be answered does not make the question go away. Saying that it does not matter does not make your answer to the question any less important. It is the question of all questions. It is the only question that we cannot avoid. It must be answered. Who do you say that I am, asks Jesus? What is your answer…

Amen and Amen.

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