WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?
Key Verse: 8-29
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are Christ.”
Three years before, Jesus had called his first disciples. In the intervening years, Jesus demonstrated God’s almighty power and revealed himself to be the Son of Man who came from the Father in heaven to save men from their sins. In the course of following him, the disciples had learned that Jesus was not an ordinary man, but God himself. Among the disciples, Peter made the confession of faith, “You are the Christ.” We, too, must learn of Jesus until we can make a confession of faith, “You are the Christ.”
After Peter made this confession of faith, Jesus taught his disciples how he would become the Messiah of the world. Jesus declared to his disciples that the work of the Messiah was to suffer and die on the cross for the sin of the world and rise again from the dead. Whoever wants to follow Jesus must understand Jesus’ suffering and accept the way of true Christian life.
Today’s passage lays out the basic guiding principles of Christianity. Jesus uses words like anyone and must to emphasize the fact that every Christians must first make a personal confession to Jesus that he is their Christ and second accept the cross as the way of God’s working. These points cannot be avoided. Only through applying these principles can we experience the true power of the gospel in our lives.
I. “You are the Christ” (27-30)
Jesus and his disciples traveled through the villages of Caesarea Philippi,(27) In Gentile territory, they were approaching the mount of transfiguration, and were about to embark on the final stage of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The time was short. He did not have much more time to teach them, less time than a school semester. But they had so much to learn! They had to learn about the Cross, because it would soon happen and they should be ready. But were they ready for the message of the Cross? So, Jesus tested the faith of the disciples with two questions. The first one is found in verse 27: “Jesus asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’” Since this was an objective test question, it was easy to answer. They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” (28) Despite the crowds’ different opinions of Jesus, we see that they generally agreed that he was at least some kind of prophet. Why did they think Jesus was one of the prophets? It was because they saw Jesus heal the sick and heard Jesus authoritative teaching. Prophets were historically known to his people as men of God and messengers of God’s word. Among them, Elijah and John the Baptist were most prominent because they had the powerful Spirit of God in them. Both of them lived in the most difficult time. Both of them did not yield to the power of evil of the times, but overcame the power of evil with God’s Spirit and delivered God’s word to their people.
The crowd recognized Jesus as a great prophet like Elijah or John the Baptist, or as one of the prophets. Yet, their answers were not correct. They only saw the human Jesus -- He preached the powerful word of God with authority, and healed with the spirit, but he also had no place to stay, had a difficult life, and was always being rejected and despised by the leaders. He looked like one of the ancient, suffering, prophets in this way. But he did not look like the Mighty King that they thought the Christ would be. So they answered as they did.
Their real problem was their attitude. They did not meditate on and apply Jesus’ words. We see in Mk 4:10-12, that they generally did not have the interest to come to him later and ask the meaning of the parables. They did not recognize who Jesus really was because though they heard Jesus’ word, they did not understand the true meaning of his teachings. Neither did they struggle to obey or apply Jesus’ words in their daily lives. They came to Jesus mainly for human benefits, to get healing or to be entertained. As a result, they only had a superficial relationship with Jesus. Jesus does not want us to be like them. He is not happy with people who attempt to be Christian by association with Christians rather than struggling to have their own personal faith and personal confession. Therefore, Jesus asked his disciples, “‘But what about you?’ ‘Who do you say I am?’”
Let’s think for a moment about these 2 questions: ‘Who do people say Jesus is?’ and ‘Who do you say Jesus is?’ These days, who do people say Jesus is? Any ideas? Its an easy question right? As many of us go to campus to invite students, we find how varied the opinions of Jesus are. A good man, a philanthropist, a humanitarian. To the socialists he is seen as a socialist. To the homeless, he is seen as homeless. But if he is any of these things, then he would be nothing more than a man. Perhaps the most popular opinion is that he is one of the 4 great teachers, said to be Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, and Jesus. Among the other 3 names, certainly Buddha and Confucius were great teachers. But we speak of them in the past tense, because they were great, but now they are only dead. They had no power to save their own lives, how can they bring power to save others? If Jesus is only a great teacher, no matter how great, then he can only teach us, not save us. He can tell us what to do, but cannot strengthen us to do it, or make atonement for our sins.
Why are there so many opinions about Jesus? Primarily because most people’s opinions are formed without any facts - they are unfamiliar with the Bible. Of course, some do say he is the Christ. However, even among those who say so, how many are confessing their own faith, and how many are simply repeating what they have heard in church but do not themselves believe?
Now, look at verse 29 again, “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” “What do others say?” is an easy question. It requires only that we listen to what they say. Just state what you’ve heard. “But what about you? What do you say?”, is a much harder question. It is a subjective question. It is getting personal. It requires us to examine our hearts. More so, it requires us to put the feeling of our heart into words, that is to make a confession.
People don’t like to make confessions. For instance, so women have difficulty to get their husbands or boyfriends to say “I love you.” And many people are afraid of the commitment that a confession implies. Due to fear of commitment, people live together without marrying. They have no strings attached and can leave whenever they want to. Even those who marry often break their commitment. Today America has more divorces than weddings. Without commitment we are like rolling stones that don’t gather moss. We can bear no good fruit, when we don’t commit. The campuses today are filled with the victims of broken families. Many are deeply wounded from watching their nurturing parents become bitter enemies.
Conversely, when we make a commitment, we can bear good fruit. We’ve been hearing about Abraham. Because of his commitment to God, he could become a source of blessing to all the world an a father of many nations. But Lot’s life of compromise only bore bad fruits. Lot believed in God, but he wasn’t committed to God.
Our last messenger, Shepherd David Brogi, and his wife Missionary Mary are a more modern example of commitment. Because of their commitment he could be Washington’s father of faith.
To be a Christian involves the deepest commitment to Jesus; we actually enter into a spiritual marriage with God. So every Christian has to first pass through this question “Who is Jesus?” There is no way to dodge the issue. True honest confession can only come from God. But confession is fundamental, as Romans 10:10 ”For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
What was Peter’s confession? Let’s read verse 29 together. Let’s go. “‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You the Christ.’” Let’s consider how Peter reached this conclusion, and then what this confession meant to him, and then what this confession did for him.
First, how did Peter reach the conclusion that Jesus was the Christ? Peter had once been a humble fisherman with no hope of ever changing the world or ever becoming famous. All he had was his fish. But one morning, after a whole night of catching nothing, when he was thinking about how he would pay his bills, he met Jesus who called him to cast out his net one more time. Suddenly, there were so many fish that the nets were breaking! He left his nets to follow Jesus. He would become a fisher of men.
Since that time, he saw Jesus heal a blind man. He saw Jesus heal an invalid man (we will see this event too, tomorrow morning). He saw water turned into wine. He saw 5,000 people miraculously fed. The evidence was beginning to point to a conclusion. Moreover, he heard Jesus authoritative teaching. He found that Jesus had the words of eternal life.
Despite all of the evidence, Peter had to make a leap of faith to confess Jesus as the Christ. It was not blind faith. It was based on his seeing many things, but it was a statement of real faith. When I was a Bible student, as I learned more and more about Jesus, a conclusion began to form, like writing coming into focus. But the facts did not bring faith, it was a struggle to find the faith to confess what I understood from the facts. In fact, when I confessed Jesus as the Christ, it seemed that the faith came from outside into me. From Matthew’s account of Peter’s confession, Jesus says to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my father in heaven.” Real revelation and faith come from God and His Son. (Mt 16:17, Heb 12:2)
Now, second, what did Peter mean by the Christ? First, Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of Lords. “Christ” means “the Anointed One.” In ancient times, only kings or prophets were anointed at the time of their inauguration. Jesus was anointed by God. In the first place, Jesus became the King of kings and Lord of lords through who he is. Jesus Christ is originally God who made the world and everything in it. Jesus is the author of human life. Without him nothing was made that has been made. Jesus Christ is therefore the owner of man and the world. He rules men and the world according to his sovereign will. In the second place, Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords through what he did. Ever since man and the world were cursed because of Adam’s disobedience, mankind has been under the power of Satan. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to this world to die on the cross for men’s sins as the ransom sacrifice for the sin of the world. But he rose again on the third day, and through his resurrection he destroyed the power of Satan and rescued us from the kingdom of Satan. Jesus Christ became our King of kings and Lord of lords through his death on the cross for our sins, and by destroying the kingdom of Satan through his resurrection.
Second, Jesus Christ is our Savior King. Christ is Greek form of the Hebrew word Messiah. The Messiah is the long awaited Savior of the world. Jesus Christ is the Messiah promised to come. What is the promised Messiah like? He is our true friend and shepherd. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would come from the Root of Jesse. Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This verse explains the character and role of the Messiah. Biblically speaking, the Messiah is the one through whom everybody finds what they need. To sum it up, the Messiah is a true friend and shepherd to all who are in need. Jesus was eyes to the blind. Jesus was living water to a thirsty Samaritan woman. Jesus was a friend to a lonely tax collector. Jesus was comfort to the brokenhearted. Jesus was a source of joy to all troubled people. Jesus Christ is the one who saves people from their sins. He is the Savior King.
Third, what happened to Peter when he made this confession of faith? On the basis of Romans 10:10, two things happened in Peter’s heart. Firstly, he was justified to be a precious child of God when he made a confession of faith. Secondly, he was saved from the hand of Satan when he made a confession of faith. He was also saved from his spiritual blindness and was able to see the Everlasting Father. When Peter made this confession of faith, he was saved from the torment of Satan and found his personal King and Savior. He found salvation in Jesus. He became a useful man to God, through whom God could build his church and pass on to his people the keys of the kingdom of heaven. (Mt.16:17-19)
At this moment, we must think about the meaning of Peter’s confession. Basically, Peter’s confession was a confession of love. In the past, Peter loved the world and his family. So he worked hard as a fisherman. But since Jesus came into his heart, he gave his heart to Jesus. When Peter said, “You are the Christ,” it meant, “You are my God and King, to whom I give my love, loyalty, faithfulness and obedience.” It was possible for Peter to make this confession because he had seen God in Jesus.
As we know well, to human beings, love is of principle importance. Most people of the world cry for love. Many people of the world get sick because of their love problem. Many girls stumble because of love problem. Many men go astray because of love problem. This is the problem of the Samaritan woman, we’ll hear about tonight. One woman loved a man who has a wife. She could not confess her love, so she became a mental patient. So, to whom we confess our love is very important. Like Peter, we must confess our love to Jesus.
Like Peter, we must also make a confession of faith. But it is not easy for anyone to make a confession of faith. We can do so only when we love Jesus more than anything else in the world. So John urges us in 1John 2:15 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” We must learn of Jesus until we can see in him God Almighty and the Savior of the world, and make a confession of faith.
Can you hear the voice of Jesus asking you who he is? How can you find that faith to believe? Faith comes from outside, but desire comes from inside. Revelation comes from God, but your confession of it has to come out of your own mouth. If you know the answer to this question, you are going to have to answer it by faith. If you are still not sure about the answer, you can still start down the path to salvation with a simple humble prayer such as: “Dear heavenly father, I want to live under your care and in humble submission to you. Please do not pass me by, but give me faith to believe and strength to live a new life. I pray in Jesus name, Amen” With such a prayer, you can expect God to begin to work in your life.
So now I’d like to give everyone a chance to make their confession. Are you ready? But what about you? Who do you say Jesus is?
II. The Son of Man must suffer (31-33)
In verses 31-33, Jesus taught his disciples how he would become the Messiah or Savior. Suddenly, the topic has changed to the message of the Cross. Verse 31 starts with the words, “He then began”. Why did he just begin this teaching? It is because the message of the Cross can be thought of as advanced. From my own experience, it made no sense to me before I was Christian. One time in school, I register for ENEE 793, Solid State Physics. The schedule of classes suggested taking a Quantum Mechanics class first. But I was told that it wasn’t necessary, because the professor covered it. However, when I went in the room and started hearing about all these weird particles and started seeing all of these weird equations which didn’t fit on one line, I knew I was in the wrong class and dropped! We can say that a confession is a prerequisite for accepting the Cross. And the Cross was still difficult for Peter to accept, even after confession.
In verses 31-33, Jesus teaches the kind of Christ that he will be. Worldly people rise to power by defeating, crushing, and annihilating all their political rivals and opponents. They sacrifice others to exult themselves. But Jesus is different. Jesus became the Messiah through rejection, sufferings, and death on the cross. This does not sound like a way to become king, but it is the power of his blood that purchased us, and his blood that makes him our king. Look at verse 31. “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.”
Jesus became our Messiah through much rejection, suffering, and finally death on the cross in our place. He suffered and died because of our sins. Isaiah prophesied about the suffering servant, Jesus. “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isa.53:4-5) This was the will of God. This was the way Jesus became the Messiah. Our Messiah is not a political king; he is the Savior King. He is the spiritual King. He lost everything because of our sins. But he won us over to God. In this way he became our Messiah, the spiritual King.
Surely, it was difficult for Jesus to go to Jerusalem, knowing what awaited him. But he could deny himself and take up his Cross because of his hope of the resurrection. He knew that to lose your life is to save your life. So let’s read verse 31 again, this time the end, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” Evil men killed Jesus. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death (Ac.2:24), and made him Christ the Lord. Through his resurrection, he destroyed the power of sin and death. The remaining power of death is nothing but a temporary vestige. In this way, Jesus freed us from all elements of death, such as sorrow, selfishness, hatred and meaningless sufferings. In this way, God will make every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil.2:10,11)
Jesus had never before plainly spoken to the disciples about his Cross. They had no idea. In fact, when Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, he thought that the Christ had come to beat up the Romans and be a mighty king, not a suffering servant. But the message of the Cross is crucial. Without it there is no gospel. A church that teaches the best morals, but not the Cross of Jesus has no gospel message to give the fallen world. So, from this time on, as they continued their journey toward Jerusalem and Golgotha, Jesus repeatedly talked to them about his suffering, death, and resurrection. 9:31b reads, “He said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’” 10:33-34 reads, “‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.’”
What was Peter’s response to Jesus’ teaching about the work of the Messiah? It made no sense to him and did not fit his own human thinking. It was beyond his comprehension. It sounded wrong to him, a thing that should not happen. So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. He was full of human thinking; he had no spiritual understanding. Jesus rebuked him. Look at verse 33b. “‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’”
Although in the previous verses, Peter had gotten an ‘A’, he now started off the new semester with an ‘F’. He became Satan, because he became the tempter of Jesus, to deny his Cross, as Satan himself had tempted Jesus in Matthew 4:9.
III. Basic principles for the Christian life (34-38)
These days people live by situation-ethics. As a result, they resemble the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. But Jesus’ people must not live by situation-ethics, but by the principles of faith. When Peter made a confession of faith, Jesus told him two things about the principles of Christian life, and one thing as a glorious promise. Look at verse 34b. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Here Jesus gives two basic principles for those who want to follow him.
First, “he must deny himself.” Deny oneself! What nonsense even to think about, living in a world of “I am my own man.” However, in order to follow Jesus, we must not drift down the current like dead fish, but swim against the current like living fish. We must deny our giant ego. To deny one’s giant ego is not an easy thing to do. It is the most fierce spiritual battle. To deny one’s giant ego is like dying on the cross. (Gal.5:22) But we must also die to deny our sinful desires and accept the Holy God in our hearts. (Gal.2:20) The words Anyone and must jump out at us from verse 34. This verse is not an option.
To deny oneself also means that we must respect God’s word more than our own ideas. Generally, people respect God’s word, but they respect their own ideas more. Such self-righteous people cannot deny themselves. We must empty ourselves, as we empty the garbage can everyday. We must listen to God’s word with mysterious awesomeness. Jesus taught us to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. (Mt.6:33) Therefore, we must respect and honor this word of promise and live up to it, no matter what happens. Though it is like going westward while everyone else is going eastward. Still, we must have this principle of faith to keep ourselves and remain in his word.
Denial includes denying our thinking and putting our ideas in submission to the word of God. For instance, the Bible proclaims in all things God works for the good of those who love him. How do we reconcile this with the misery we sometimes see? We try to explain, but it is difficult, because the mind of God is beyond our comprehension. When our mind cannot understand, we deny our mind and say God loves us none-the-less. I may not understand, but I know it is true, because God said so.
Second, “...take up his cross.” Here, one’s cross is God’s mission. God blessed mankind by giving men a mission. When man lives with God’s mission, he has the meaning of his existence and he is happy. But when man ignores God’s mission and lives a selfish life, his life is a cursed one. All his hard work is only to eat three meals a day. After Adam’s fall, man lost his mission and was cursed. Since then, mankind has had to work hard only to eat. This is a cursed life. But when we believe in Jesus, we no more work only for bread, but to fulfill God’s mission assigned to each of us. One’s mission is one’s meaning of life, and the degree of his happiness depends on his attitude toward his own cross.
The conference title is the Cross of Jesus. When we think of the Jesus, who struggled to deny himself and carry a Cross of shame and die, we are moved to tears. Tomorrow, we will learn exactly about Jesus Cross. But when we think only about the Cross of Jesus and what I have received freely, we must remember that there is another Cross- your Cross. When you see a symbol of a Cross, you think of Jesus death. But think that the cross in your church also serves as reminder that we all have a cross. Like Jesus’ cross our cross is a burden and a shame. Like Jesus, our Cross is not an option. Jesus says in Mt 11:28 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He did not say there was no yoke, no burden.
We must know that if we don’t take up our own light cross of mission, we must take up the cross of our own sin and ego. The cross of ego is the burden of sin to everyone. The bigger the cross of ego, the heavier the burden of sin and death to those who are under it. Therefore, to take up the cross of mission is the secret to happiness for all men. Without denying ourselves, there is no joy. My life has a point only in my mission. I go fishing because it is my duty and my joy. The students need to gospel. But sometimes it feels like a burden. I don’t want to go, and be rejected. But I take up my Cross, and in this way I know the reason why I’m alive and have joy. It’s not fun when I go to invite students and they despise me or look at me like I’m crazy or a freak. I can see what they are thinking. But I can be joyful, because, in this way I suffer with Christ, whose cross was also shameful, and I rejoice that I can help carry the Cross of Jesus to the ends of the earth. I grow through m Cross to be a bolder witness. And to not care what people think.
Not everyone has the same Cross, each has his own. But our Crosses all have this in common, they advance the kingdom of God and glorify God. One man seeks a degree for mission, another seeks a degree for worldly success. The first is carrying his cross, the second is not. We deny our desires and live for mission. Paul says whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1Cor1:18 explains “The message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Before I was Christian, I remember thinking, “how weird, even silly is this idea of the Cross!” Studying Genesis was fine but the Cross was foolish to me. We cannot expect that unbelievers will understand. However the Cross contains the deep secret of the gospel. It is the secret of a fruitful life.
When we deny ourselves, in a sense we lose our life but gain eternal life, as verse 35 indicates. Mark 10:29-30 promises us “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father for and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields - and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” Do you believe Jesus promise? If we share in his suffering, we will also share in his glory!
Third, “if anyone is ashamed of me.” (35-38) Jesus continued to speak. Read verses 35-38. The real way to find abundant life is to give up one’s self-centered life and live a life of mission for the sake of Jesus and his gospel. To the person who loses his life for Jesus’ sake and the gospel’s, Jesus gives eternal life. When Jesus comes in the glory of the Father, he will bless those who have denied themselves and taken up their cross and followed him. On the other hand, he will be ashamed of those who were ashamed of him before the adulterous and perverse generation. What good will their money do them? They exercised and watched their diet, but were they able to save their lives? Look at verse 38. “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the Holy angels.”
These days most people love the world. They have no confession in their hearts. Even those who love the world are ashamed of saying, “I love the world.” Like Peter, we must come to Jesus and learn of him until we come to realize that Jesus is God himself. We must learn of Jesus until we can make a confession of faith, “You are the Christ.”