“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He then said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:13-16.
According to the account given to us by Matthew, Jesus finished up a confrontation with the Pharisees and Sadducees, the major Jewish leaders. They had tested Him by asking for a sign that would show them He was the long awaited Messiah. “The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and putting Jesus to the test, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, ‘When it is evening, you say, It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. And in the morning, There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening. You know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but are you unable to discern the signs of the times? An evil and adulterous generation wants a sign; and so a sign will not be given to it, except the sign of Jonah.’ And He left them and went away.” Matthew 16:1-4.
They were probably not serious in this request but were hoping He would try to show them a sign, and then fail miserably. But Jesus scolded them, saying they could read the signs of the weather, but not of the times. They should have known based on the declarations of the prophets of old who He was, but they were blinded by their prejudices and their standing in the Jewish community.
Later on, as they were arriving in the Roman District of Caesarea Philippi, He remembers the conversation He had with the Jewish leaders and asked His disciples who the people think He is. They had varied answers to His query. One of the answers was the resurrected John the Baptist. In Matthew 14 we read, “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he himself has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Matthew 14:1-5. Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet.” Herod had told his servants that Jesus was the resurrection of John because of the miracles that he had performed. Others saw Him as the return of one of the prophets of old, such as Elijah and Jeremiah. As you can see, the average person thought Jesus was simply a prophet. Then Jesus asked His twelve closest disciples and friends who they thought He was. Immediately, Peter chimes in as he always did, with the answer Jesus had hoped they would give. ”You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16.
If we are asked this question, would we have the same answer? Be careful not to answer this question too quickly. Remember, the way you think, and act is a window into your beliefs. Take the time to be introspective, examine your true thoughts and feelings, look intently at your actions. Do they match what you think you believe? Sometimes we have a very idealistic view of our beliefs, thinking what we want to believe about ourselves is reality, when actually it is reminiscent of the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, where he wanted to believe he was wearing the most wonderful outfit, when in reality he was totally naked.
As I went through this process, I found that my beliefs were not as solid as I thought. I told myself that I believed Jesus was the Son of the Living God. However, when I came into His presence, did I come humbly? Did I do or say anything that would offend Him? Did I take this time in His presence seriously? I am ashamed to say that at that time, I could not answer YES across the board. I thought I believed Jesus was one with the Father, who was Almighty, All Knowing, All Seeing. But my actions did not agree with my words or thoughts. I found myself conforming to the image of my friends rather than Christ. As I think back on this now, I still feel bad. However, I know His grace is greater than ALL my faults, and this gives me peace. Because of this exercise, I spent some time in prayer and study, which helped me change the way I think and act. One passage which really spoke to me is found in the Book of Hebrews. “Therefore, since we also have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2. It brings to my mind the awe, humility, and fear that the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs had in the presence of God. They took seriously what it meant to be followers of God. They were not perfect, of course, as we are not. But they were not flippant in His presence either. The patriarchs honored God in following His precepts. The prophets spent time with God, listened to what He revealed to them, and took whatever measures they needed to accurately convey it to His people. The apostles and other martyrs gave their lives to the propagation of the gospel. And these are the ones who are, as Albert Barnes states in his commentary, “looking on to witness the efforts which Christians make, and the manner in which they live.” And with God always seeing what I am doing, I want to be seen as one who stands firm in the faith and acts as Christians ought to act. I want to challenge everyone who reads this to examine their lives and see if they line up with what you purport to believe. If your answer to the question Jesus posited to His disciples is the same as Peter’s declaration, do your thoughts and actions line up with this answer? If not, then spend time in prayer and study and allow God to help you become conformed to the image of Christ. If you honestly cannot answer as Peter did, again cry out to God, be honest in your prayers and ask Him to reveal the truth to you in a powerful way. God already knows what you believe and is ready to bring you to a place where the truth becomes a complete reality to you. We are approaching a time where we must be clear as to our beliefs because we must stand firm for Christ no matter what the rest of the world does, or what the results are. We must be fully convinced as to who Christ truly is so we can avoid the compromise that comes with ambivalence. We must know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He is the Son of God, and thus act like it. This is the only way the world will be convinced of the truth. As Brennan Manning once said, “The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable” Are we believable or unbelievable? This is no doubt the most important issue we must address in our lives.