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Matthew 16:13-23

Who Do You Say He Is

  • Rich Jones
  • Weekend Messages
  • March 13, 2011

At this place in Matthew 16, Jesus has a conversation with the disciples that has become foundational to our understanding of who Christ is, who Peter is, and what the church is. In other words, these are extremely important words for us to understand and so we will look to God's Word for insight and application and to have an impact on our relationship to God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Who do You Say He is?

Matthew 16:13-23 

As we continue in Matthew 16, we now find Jesus and the disciples far to the north of the Sea of Galilee in an area known as Caesarea Philippi. This is a famous location because of what happens here as Jesus taught the disciples. From here, you can see the famous Mount Hermon to the north where there is snow almost all year round.

Some of the headwaters of the Jordan River flow out of this place. There is also a famous rock face that stands massively out of the mountain from where the water flows out of a cave that the water has carved out of the limestone rock.

The spring has been called Panias, or Banias, named after the Greek god Pan, the god of desolate places. In fact, at the base of this mountain was built the Temple of Pan, the remnants of which can be still seen there today.

Here, at this place, Jesus has a conversation with the disciples that has become foundational to our understanding of who Christ is, who Peter is, and what the church is. In other words, these are extremely important words for us to understand and so we will look to God's Word for insight and application and to have an impact on our relationship to God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The story unfolds around two questions that Jesus asks the disciples. First, he asks, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" The disciples answer by reporting the various opinions of men. But then Jesus asks the second question, "But who do you say that I am?"

There is no more important question for each of us and in fact, every tongue must one day give an answer.

I. Each One Must Answer for Himself

  • The disciples reported that there were many opinions out there about who Christ was.
  • There are also many opinions today. If you were to take a poll and ask people to respond to that question today, many people would answer, “He was a great teacher,” or “He was good example of living a moral life," or something similar.
  • But when Peter answered Jesus’ questioned and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus commended Peter for his answer.
  • In the Greek, Peter's answer is powerful and clear. You are “the” Son of God, “the Christ.”
  • In fact, it was for this reason the Jews had Jesus killed by the Romans.

John 5:18, For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.

Matthew 26:63, And the high priest said to Him, "I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, "You have said it yourself…”

A. This is an open book test

  • After Peter gave his answer Jesus also said, "Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven."
  • In other words, this is the most important question you'll ever answer, but it's an open book test; because God reveals the truth to you. 
  • You don't have to rely on the opinion of men; God reveals the answer and gives evidence for your faith to be strengthened as well.

Illus - I remember when I was putting together a research paper for school, I went to the mall to ask people who God is. One person said, "God evolved from the dust of the universe." I then asked, "How do you know this is true?" He responded, "Because I think it is true."

  • God reveals the truth and confirms it with the authority and power of Christ and then by raising Him from the grave on the third day.

Matthew 3:17, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

  • And then Jesus, the One who was giving sight to the blind and healing every disease also said…

John 14:6, Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

Illus – CS Lewis once presented the problem that statement creates for us. It is summarized by the argument, "Either he is a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord He claimed to be."

B. One day everyone will give the same answer

  • We live in a time and an age in which God has allowed each man or woman to choose for himself whom he will serve.

Joshua 24:15, "Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

  • But there will come a day when God will reveal His Son in such a way that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Philippians 2:9-11 Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

  • There will even come a day, and I believe very soon, when the nation of Israel will all recognize him as their Messiah.

Zechariah 12:10, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son.”

II. Know Who You are as Well

  • After Peter gives Jesus the answer, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus then began to tell Peter who he was and on what the church would be built.
  • This is absolutely essential for us to understand because there is so much misunderstanding.
  • Having understood who Christ is, we then need to understand who we are in Christ. 

A. The church is built on a rock

  • In verse 17, Jesus used the name, Simon Barjonah, but in verse 18 he calls him Peter and then says, "Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
  • First of all, I love the fact that Jesus says it is, "My church." It's a relationship word and we can say the same thing as well.

Illus – I was at a pastor's conference where a pastor corrected everyone for using the phrase, "my church." But it's a relationship word; my friend, my wife, my Lord, etc. 

Hebrews 2:11-14 He is not ashamed to call them brethren

Illus – Many people have misunderstood what Jesus said here to Peter. In fact, many of our modern jokes about heaven have Peter standing at the gate deciding who would be let in.

  • The Catholic Church has taken this to mean that Jesus was installing Peter as the first pope, but this question is answered by seeing these words in the Greek language.
  • Remember that the backdrop of this conversation was the solid bedrock wall of rock behind them from which was flowing the source of the Jordan River.
  • Jesus said, "You are Petros (masculine word for small stone), but upon this petra (feminine word for a large rock or stonewall) I will build my church.”
  • The meaning then would be that Christ will build His church on that great truth which Peter proclaimed, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
  • Paul clarifies this in another place…

Ephesians 2:19, You are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord.

  • Peter himself said that Christ is the Cornerstone and that we are living stones built upon it.

1 Peter 2:5, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

B. The gates of hell will not prevail against it

  • This verse has also been misunderstood and it's important that we look at it carefully as well.
  • First, gates are defensive, so what Jesus is saying is that the gates of hell will not be able to stand against the authority of the church.
  • The word "hell" here is the Greek word, Hades, which means, "the kingdom of death."
  • Death has a grip on people's lives and Jesus is giving the authority to the church in binding the enemy and loosening people from the grip of death upon them.

Ephesians 2:1 -7 We were dead but now alive

  • Jesus said the keys of the kingdom would be given to the church for spiritual warfare so that the church can bind the enemy and loosen its grip over those under its power.

Illus – Keys represent authority, but as we'll see, the key to having authority is by being under authority.

  • When Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders of Israel, be killed, and be raised up on the third day, Peter took him aside to correct him.
  • You have to wonder if maybe Peter misunderstood the whole "keys to the kingdom" principle and tried to exercise authority over Jesus.

Illus- You have to love Peter's zeal, but you have to admit that it got him into trouble more than once.

Remember when he took out a sword to defend Jesus and ended up taking off a man's ear?

  • Here, Peter gets a sharp rebuke. "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus is not calling Peter demon possessed, He's saying, "You are opposing God's purposes; you are out in front of me, when you need to be behind me."
  • “These things must be.” Can you imagine Peter trying to oppose the plan of the ages? For before the foundation of the world God's plan of redemption was made.

C. Choose you this day

  • The question that Jesus asked the disciples that day is a question each of us must answer.
  • Our answer determines what kind of church we will become. We are called to simply love the Son that loved us so much that he died in our place.

1 John 4:19, We love Him because He first loved us.

1 John 3:1, See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God;

  • That's a church on which God can bring revival. Some said He was John the Baptist - calling people to repentance.
  • Some said He was Elijah; working miracles.
  • Some said he was Jeremiah - weeping for the lost.
  • Some said he was that prophet - who would explain the Law of God.
  • But He is simply Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

CS Lewis:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the  Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ... Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

Matthew 16:13-23    NASB

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 
 
17 And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.
 
21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You." 23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."

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