Matthew 16:13-20 – Those Defining Moments That Control Everything That Comes After…

Posted: January 16, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew
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Matthew 16:13-20 (Part 2)
Peter Says Jesus Is the Messiah

Who do you say that I am? This is the question about Jesus Christ that we must answer. It seems on this side of eternity that you answer to the question does not have any impact at all. However, when it comes time to meet our Maker or when Jesus returns to wrap things up here on earth, the answer has eternal implications. Peter’s reply to the question is that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. It is upon this profession of faith that Jesus will build his church. The faith of Peter and the faith of the disciples were the building blocks of what we know now as Christianity. On their faith profession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Jesus built his church. After his ascension, their faith created a firestorm of faith that spread quickly through the Roman Empire. So impactful these guys were, the Christian faith became the official religion of the Roman Empire within 3 centuries of Jesus’ ascension.

It reminds you that decisions that we make about Jesus are eternally impactful, but there are also decisions that we make here on earth that have far-reaching implications. I think of my own life in this regard. There were a series of pivotal events during 1976-1980 which forged the course of my future more than any others. Outside of my accepting Christ as my Savior in December 2000, the pivotal decisions of Travelers Rest on the future of my life cannot be understated. Even the timing of my acceptance of Christ as my Savior is, in part, affected by 1976-80. What if my dad had not been moved by the SC Methodist Church from Anderson to Travelers Rest in the summer of 1976? What would my life look like now? It was in Travelers Rest that met my first wife, married her, had children with her. What would my life look like now if the Methodist Church had moved us to another town? It boggles the mind to think about it at times. It makes you wonder if you would have had the same heartaches, pains, choices, results, etc. had we moved to another town. I loved my situation in Anderson when I was 13 going on 14 and I got yanked out of it for a new town. What would life have been like? Another pivotal decision was about college a few years later. Because of my relationship with Lisa, who would become my first wife, I chose to stay in Travelers Rest and go to nearby Furman University for college. What if I had chosen to go to one of the other two colleges that had given me acceptance letters, Clemson University and University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV)? What if I had decided to go to Clemson, just an hour away from home, but far enough away where I would have had to live on campus or in an apartment in Clemson. How would that decision have changed my life? I am certain Lisa and I would not have gotten married after my freshman year in college. I am even more certain that we probably would have drifted apart as I would have begun immersing myself in the college life. What if I had the guts to have decided to venture out to UNLV, across the continent from Travelers Rest? What would my life be like now? These thoughts boggle the mind sometimes. The what if’s of life. It is amazing how there are those pressure points in life where a decision not only affects your immediate future but has a profound impact on the rest of your life. The decisions that I made between 1976 and 1980 still affect me to this day. Everything that has happened since that time has been a result of, a reaction to, or the consequences of that time frame. What if I had chosen Clemson instead of Furman? What if I had chosen UNLV over Furman? Where would I be today? Would I be sitting here in a house in Duncan, SC at age 53 writing this blog? Our lives right now are the culmination of the major decisions of life and in small part to the little decisions as well, too. Where we are right now can be traced back to a few pivotal events.

Just as we have a few pivotal events in our own lives, this moment in Caesarea Philippi is a pivotal moment for Peter and the disciples. Everything hinges on this moment. Peter and the disciples probably looked back at this moment as the moment that changed everything. It changed the course of their lives. No, they were not just hanging out with the coolest, newest, latest prophet to come along in Judaism, they were hanging out with Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of the living God. That’s a whole lot different from hanging out with the latest rage in prophet-dom. Pivotal events that change everything. Pivotal events that send us down a road chosen that cannot be undone. No turning back after such events. The choice to choose one road over another often has long-ranging, overarching impact. So, today we look at what the results Peter’s revelation did for the disciples and what our same decision about Jesus Christ does for us.

 
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.

 
Here Peter and the disciples are in a pagan town hanging out with their mentor and teacher, Jesus Christ. Up to now, they have seen a lot of things and witnessed miracles and listened to Jesus mesmerize crowds with His eloquence and with His understanding of Scripture. But til now, they have been on the sidelines. They have not been confronted with the head-on question from Jesus that they have surely pondered in their mind but have refused to answer to themselves. Here, Jesus forces the issue. What say you about Jesus? He asks them point blank, “who do you say that I am?”. Not what other people say. What do you say? It is Peter’s response that profoundly changes everything for the disciples. Peter says it. He verbalizes it. He says what the others were afraid to say. He says that Jesus is the Son of the living God, the Messiah. It is from this point forward (with a whole bunch of mistakes and errors along the way) that these guys changed the world. It is these bumbling, clueless fools who become the foundation of the church of Jesus Christ. It is this faith statement by this one man and subsequently but these other men upon which Jesus built his church and continues to build it today. It is through this faith statement by Peter than Jesus grants Peter and the disciples the authority to build His church on earth after He returns to heaven. It is from this point that they will begin to understand who Jesus is and why things happened the way they did. It is from this faith statement that they were willing to die for the sake of Jesus Christ. The gates of hell could stop them from living a life of faith in Jesus Christ and made them willing to die some gruesome deaths to expand the kingdom of God. Pivotal moment. Road chosen. Life changed forever. Each one of these guys I bet when sitting around campfires years later pointed back to this moment as being the one that changed everything.

It is the same for you and for me. When we see Jesus as just one of many options, just another in a long line of prophets, it does not really change anything. We are still in control. We can pick and choose, as we said yesterday, from what we want from Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Confuscianism, and Christianity among others. It is our menu driven spirituality where we are in control. Jesus is just another prophet to us. He is just a radical rabbi, a political revolutionary, a great philosopher, an accepter of all people and behaviors. That way we don’t really have to address the issue of who He is when we make Him just one of the boys, one of the greats in spiritual history. But He will ask you at some point in your life or when He returns in His glory, “who do YOU say that I am?” That’s the question. That’s the one question that changes everything. We will have to answer to Him one day. He is God in the flesh and won’t a lot of people be surprised when they find out that this thing was for real! It takes faith to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. It changes everything. When we finally see Jesus as the Savior that He is, He sends the Holy Spirit to live in us. Through the Holy Spirit we learn of the sins that we commit that grieve the heart of God. We submit to His authority and begin turning away from our sins one by one as we mature through the Holy Spirit. We are not perfect. We are works in progress. But the decision to see Jesus as the One and Only Messiah, the Son of the one and only True God opens our eyes. We see Him as having died for our sins on the cross so as to reconcile us the Father in heaven. A Father in heaven that by His nature cannot allow sin and imperfection to be in His presence which then counts us out because we are stained by our first sin and any sins after that. We need rescue and that comes in the form of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God. We see that without Jesus’ sacrifice that we are lost in sin. Without his covering, we are ugly, stained, sinful beings. When we see Jesus as who He says He is, we see that we are no longer in control. We see that we depend on his grace and not our effort. It is the most pivotal moment in our lives. It changes everything. Nothing is the same after that moment of salvation, that moment when we proclaim Jesus to be our Savior and Lord, that moment when we proclaim Him to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Just as the decisions of Travelers Rest from 1976-1980 are the pivotal juncture in history upon which everything after it in my life hinges and just as Peter admission of Jesus’ identity is the moment at which everything after it hinges for him and the disciples, so it is in our lives when we finally answer the question that Jesus asks us, “Who do you say that I am?” Everything hinges on that moment and how you answer that one simple question.

Amen and Amen.

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