Matthew 16:13 “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Because Jesus had not spoken plainly to the crowds it is understandable that there was some confusion as to who Jesus was. Was He John the Baptist raised from the dead as Herod thought (Matt 15)? Many Jews also believed that the living breathing Elijah would return before the Messiah came. Was he Elijah? He certainly performed miracles in a similar way that Elijah did. Was Jesus really one of the prophets whom God brought back to announce destruction to the Romans? Jesus’ own disciples might have also been confused. Could Jesus be the Messiah? If so, why are the Romans still here?
Jesus, therefore felt a need to clarify his identity, to the people who needed to know it the most, his disciples. The confession given by Peter on behalf of the other disciples is not the same as confessing that Obama is President of the United States, or that Tiger Woods is a great Golfer. While all these statements are true, they do not necessarily have a huge bearing in our lives. We will probably carry on with our lives in a similar way regardless who the great sport players are and who is our President. But if Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God is true, then He has much to say about how we conduct our lives and must be taken seriously,
There is just as much confusion as to who Jesus is today. Some think that Jesus was a pacifist, whose ultimate goal was to bring about peace on Earth. While Jesus certainly preached about peace (Matthew 5:8, Luke 6:27-36), that was not all he was about. Some think Jesus was a feminist who wanted to liberate women from oppression. While He certainly did open the door for many women to follow Him (John 4), that is not all He did. He spoke about himself to men as well and chose 12 men to be his closest followers (Luke 6:12-13).
Some say that Jesus was just a great teacher but not the Son of God. Jesus certainly was a great teacher. But if it is true that is all he is, why did he claim to be the Son of God (John 3:16, Matt. 26: 63-65 etc.)? In the words of Atheist turned Christian C S Lewis,
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 patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Other people see him as a new Age Spiritist or a Hindu mystic. Both of these options are impossible since Jesus was a Jew and never claimed that everyone was God as New Age people often claim. Some say Jesus was a delusional person but if so how could He have impacted so many people in a positive way?
The people of the first century have more excuses then we do of not knowing who Jesus is. While they did have access to the Old Testament Prophecies, the New Testament has not been written yet, and Jesus had kept his identity silent to the masses. However, there should be no confusion today who Jesus was. You want to know who Jesus is, read the Bible! Read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (For more info on the reliability of the Gospels as historical documents see my previous article on the four Gospels). In all of these documents and from historical witness, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the only way to have forgiveness of your sins and to come into a relationship with Him. Either Jesus’ claims about Himself are true or they are not.
At the beginning of this article, I quoted Matthew 16:13-16. If Jesus had existed in the 21st century here is how I think the conversation would have gone.
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say that you are just a great teacher, others say that you are a pacifist, and some say you are a New Age Spiritist or delusional.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
While the misconceptions are different in this century than in Jesus’ day, the true answer is the same, “You are Christ, Son of the living God.”
How do you respond to this claim?