In our series looking at questions God asks us, we looked tonight at Matt 16:13-20, where Jesus asked His disciples two questions about His identity. Who Jesus is remains crucially important; if He is both the Son of God as well as the Son of Man, then it matters enormously how we answer these questions.
Initially, Jesus asked for the general opinion about His identity and was told that ‘some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ (Matt 16:14) There was no real general consensus about His identity, though there was a vague feeling He was important – but not enough to affect people personally. This is probably the same response people give today. A survey commissioned by the Evangelical Alliance and Church of England and carried out in 2015 by Barna Group and ComRes subtitled ‘What people in England think of Jesus, Christians and evangelism’ interviewed over 4,500 people in the U.K. to find out the modern-day answer to this question Jesus asked. 40% of adults and 46% of young people aged 11-18 said they were not sure or did not believe that Jesus was a real person who lived on earth while 22% thought he was a fictional character. Yet approximately one in five adults (21%) and young people (22%) said they believed Jesus was God in human form and three in 10 said that they believed He was a prophet. It seems that answers really haven’t changed very much down the years.
Jesus was not just interested in general opinion, however, wanting to know what the disciples thought, and Peter makes one of the most famous confessions in Scripture: ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ (Matt 16:6) Peter was beginning to realise that Jesus was more than just a rabbi or teacher; by divine inspiration, he sees that Jesus is not just an important man, but the One chosen by God to be the deliverer of the world.
The Bible teaches us that Jesus is totally God (John 1:1-3, Heb 1:3, Col 1:15, 18), but also acknowledges that we needed a human being to pay the price for our sin (see 2 Cor 15:21). Jesus took on human flesh (John 1:14, Heb 2:14) and became our substitute and sacrifice for sin. His identity has always been disputed and will continue to be the ‘sticking point’ for many people. We need to be convinced in our own minds of who Jesus is and the overflow from this will be a desire to share Jesus with others. The question of who Jesus is lies at the heart of our faith and must be at the heart of our evangelism also. It’s all about Jesus.