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Matthew 16:13-16:20
Key Verse: 16:16

In the previous passage Jesus said to his disciples, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” He wanted his disciples to guard their hearts against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. In short the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees was worldly and impure, seeking for visible physical signs of establishment in this world. Their teaching was like yeast, having invisible but powerful influence on ordinary people. On the contrary Jesus’ teaching was spiritual and pure, focusing on God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness. People become what they are taught. Jesus did not want his disciples to become like the Pharisees and Sadducees but be like him accepting the words of his teachings. In our times we should watch out secular Christianity influenced by worldly teachings. Today’s passage shows the core of Jesus’ teaching and the essence of Christianity. It is preceded by Jesus’ warning against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. We are again impressed by Matthew’s excellent compiling. Let’s study this passage with the title, “You are the Christ.”

First, “Who do you say I am?” (13-15). Look at verse 13. “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’” Jesus continued to move away from Galilee, going into the predominantly Gentile area to the north-northeast of the Sea of Galilee called Caesarea Philippi. This region was governed by Philip the Tetrarch, one of three sons of Herod the Great. When Jesus and his disciples traveled there, Caesarea Philippi was an important Greco-Roman city, whose population was primarily pagan Syrian and Greek. This region was a bastion of pagan worship to Baal, then to the Greek god Pan, and then to Caesar. In Caesarea Philippi there was a great temple of white marble built to the godhead of Caesar. It has been built by Herod the Great. Later it was Philp who further beautified and enriched the temple, changed the name of Panias to Caesar—Caesar’s temple—and added his own name—Philippi, which means Philip—to distinguish it from the Caesarea on the coasts of the Mediterranean. In this historical place Caesar was regarded as a god and people often talked about Caesar and who Caesar was. Yet, even in the region of this renowned Gentile territory the name of Jesus had been spread. Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” It was not because he wanted to know his popularity among them but because they had to know him, for it related to their eternal destiny (Jn 17:3). There have been many great people in history, and their lives have influenced others. It is good to know many great men and talk about them. Yet no knowledge of any great man is directly related to the eternal destiny of others. But knowing Jesus does (Lk 2:34).

More fundamentally, no person knows his or her own self with 100% certainty nor does he know where he came from and where he is going. So in a strict sense nobody can ask such a question as this: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” or “Who do people say I am?” (Mk 8:27) But Jesus knew who he was. Jesus knew that he came from God and lived in this world as the Son of Man. He liked to call himself as the Son of Man, representing a suffering servant in the history of God like Ezekiel. Jesus not only could see his life in his own time but in the entire history of God, identifying himself as the Son of Man. People had to know him, so he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

How was Jesus viewed and spoken of by the people of his time? Look at verse 14. “They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah, and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’” People recognized Jesus as one of the great prophets. They gave Jesus a certain credit but they could not see more than that.

Look at verse 15. “‘But what about you?’ he asked, ‘Who do you say I am?’” Figuring out the general opinion or consensus about people is important. Yet, in regard to Jesus, the general view does not count much. What really counts is the personal view and opinion of him. So Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” This is a subjective question. For the last almost 3 years Jesus had revealed himself to all those who came to him so that they might know him. He spoke hidden things since the creation of the world (Mt :13:34). But Jesus revealed himself most to his disciples. The disciples were privileged to have many experiences with Jesus. In helping his disciples Jesus always had a point. That was to reveal himself to them through all his teachings and miracles and life together with them.

“Who do you say I am?” Basically we don’t like exams, especially with hard questions. Yet, everyone should stand before this question. Christianity is not knowing about Jesus but knowing him, the very person. In the Old Testament the LORD God is depicted as the God of Israel. At the same time he is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is a personal God. The Lord Jesus is a personal Lord. The purpose of Bible study is to know him and be able to stand before this question, “Who do you say I am?’ This can be the greatest of all questions. It is a history-breaking question. How to respond to this question is the matter of one’s eternal life and death. No one can ask such a question, but Jesus.

Second, “You are the Christ”(16). How did the disciples respond to this pivotal question? Look at verse 16. “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” We can say that Christ is the most important single word and the most significant concept in the Bible. “Christ” is a title, the translation of the Greek term Christos, which is a translation of the Hebrew term for ‘anointed” (masiah). It occurs 39 times in the Old Testament to describe kings (e.g., 1 Sam 16:13; 24:6), priests (e.g., Ex. 28:41; 40:15) and prophets (e.g., Ps 105:15; Ezek 28:14). Right after man’s fall God promised to send a Saviour through the offspring of a woman (Ge 3:15). God called one man Abraham and promised that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him (Ge 12:3). When Abraham passed God’s test of obedience, God confirmed the Abrahamic promise with an oath, “I swear by myself…through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me” (Ge 22:18). From among Abraham’s descendants, God raised many great men such as Moses, Samuel, David, and many prophets. God did many great works through them, rescuing and leading the chosen people of the Israelites. But most importantly he assured his promise given to Abraham again and again. In David’s time God established a theocratic kingdom through King David, who ruled his people in the fear of the Lord (2 Sam 23:3). When David’s kingdom was firmly established, God said to him, “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you…and I will establish his kingdom…and…establish the throne of his kingdom forever…Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Sa 7:12-16). Then “Anointed one” came to be linked to David as the with the promise of an “anointed one” who would be the light of hope for the people of Israel. God spoke again and again through his prophets, who prophesied the coming of the Messiah, especially, when the people were suffering unbearably in darkness with no human hope. For example, God said in Isaiah 42:1, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations” And Matthew free-quoted this promise in Matthew 12:18, “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will proclaim justice to the nations.” And God said in Jeremiah 23:5-6, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land…This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.” God also said in Ezekiel 34:23-24, “I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.” The teaching and idea of the Messiah who God would send is flowing in the whole Scriptures. Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey.” In this way God prepared human hearts through his promises to wait yearningly for the coming of the Messiah, the Christ. So at the time of Jesus’ birth there were many waiting people. One of them was Simeon. He was so eager to see the coming Christ that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (Lk 2:26). Even blind men expressed their yearning desire to meet the Christ, the Son of David (Mt 11:27; 20:30).

God’s promise to send the Christ was given to the Jews, his chosen people so that they might anticipate for the coming of the Christ. In truth, ever since men were alienated from God and banished from the Garden of Eden, all mankind have longed for a right one who can truly help them and solve all their problems. In his unbearable suffering Job said in Job 17:19, “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.” And he said in Job 19:25, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him?” The Magi were humanly noble people with great learning, wealth, high position and fame. But they could not be satisfied with such things of the world. They yearned for the one who could truly satisfy them and be the true object of their worship. So they searched for king of the Jews, the Christ (Mt 2:2,5). A Samaritan woman, though sinful and immoral, longed for the one who could explain everything to her, the Christ (Jn 4:25). One young man was crying, “Where is the master of my life? His slave is here, but where is the master?” As for St. Paul, finding the power of sin exiting in him along with the desire to do good, he cried out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Ro 7:24). In truth, all mankind are seeking for the Christ in their hearts.

Then a big question is “who is the Christ?” When John the Baptist came and preached the baptism of repentance, many came to him and repented and were baptized. As his popularity was sky high, people thought he was the Christ. But John himself said, “I am not the Christ” (Jn 1:20). When Jesus came to him to be baptized by him, John knew that he was the one who had to be baptized by Jesus. He helped people to come to Jesus, saying, “He must become greater; I must become less” (Jn 3:30). When John the Baptist heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Mt 11:1). At the time of Jesus’ trial, the high priest said to him, “…Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (Mt 26:63). And there have been many false Christs in history deceiving and misleading people. While I was in Korea, I met some of my cousins. They went to church from their young ages. I was disappointed to hear them saying, “All religions are same. We do this in the Christian way, and others in other ways.” Yet, “Who is the Christ?” is a fundamental question in human mind (3 분).

There is a book “Heaven is for real.” It is a little boy’s astounding story of his trip to heaven and back in 3 Minutes. The author is Pastor Tod Burpo who relayed the account of his son’s (Colton) experience when he was in surgery for a burst appendix. In the heaven he could see his great grandfather and his sister who was miscarried in her mother’s womb. There were no old people and all people had big or small wings. He also saw angles with swords and the coming wars. The book became New Times bestseller and number 1 selling record in after 5 months of it release. People are interest in such a book, because they are seeking for Christ, who can tell all things about life and heaven.

When Jesus came to this world, he did none other than the works of the Messiah there were predicted in the Old Testaments: opening the eyes of the blind, unstopping the ears of the deaf, making the lame walk and the mute tongue shout for joy, and raising the dead (Isa 35:5,6; 26:19). As we studied in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus’ healing ministry was so beautiful. He healed all those who came to him one by one, no matter what kind of diseases each had. His healing was powerful and personal. Matthew was so moved by Jesus’ healing work that he wrote, “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases” (Mt 8:17) freely quoting from Isaiah (53:4). And he preached the good news of the kingdom of heaven to the people of this world (Isa 61:1; Mt 11:4,5). When Jesus taught, the crows were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority (Mt 7:28). On one occasion chief priests and Pharisees sent the temple guards to arrest Jesus. But they did not do so. When they were asked, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” the guards declared, “No one ever spoke the way this man does” (Jn 7:45,46). Evil spirits were powerless before his presence and driven out at his command (Mt 8:32). Even the winds and waves obeyed him (Mt 8:27). He was in complete control of the nature and the spiritual realm. He fed the five thousand hungry crowds with five loves and two fish and the four thousand with seven loaves. The miracles he performed were countless (Jn 21:25). It was not to show his magic power but to reveal himself as the Christ (Jn 20:30). Jesus said in John 10, “All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them…The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (10:8-10). Jesus also said in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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.” He said in Mark 10:45 that he did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mt 20:28). In Luke 19:10 he came to seek and save what was lost. And he came to bring us back to the kingdom of heaven (Jn 14:3)

Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter was a fisherman. When Jesus called him and his brother Andrew, saying, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”, they left their nets and followed Jesus. This showed that he had been seeking for true meaning and purpose of life. Since he received Jesus’ calling, Jesus became his purpose and direction in his life. Following Jesus, he could hear Jesus’ words, which were different from all others. Jesus’ words had authority and were the words of life. He once confessed, “You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68). Once when he stood before Jesus, he felt that he was a sinner before the holy God and was trembled in fear. But Jesus forgave him his sins. Peter’s life was regenerated through Jesus’ words and he became a new creation born into a family of God. Jesus cared for his family problem. On one occasion Jesus said to him, “Let’s go to your house.” Peter did not know why Jesus did so. But on coming to Peter’s house, Jesus saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her (Mt 8:14,15). Peter was moved by Jesus’ delicate touch of love. As he followed Jesus, he came to know how to live and what to do in this world. Peter saw so many life-changing works and unparalleled mighty work done through his master Jesus. Experiencing with Jesus was experiencing with the holy, merciful and eternal God. His life was firmly set on Jesus with other way to turn. When Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter lost no time to say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

I was also one of those who had been seeking for Christ promised to come to my life. Until I met the Christ, my life was a wandering itself. I could not concentrate on studying, though I attended a promising school. I had to seek him day and night for three years of high school days and three years of university days. I cried out for the living God. My wandering and crying stopped when I found the words of life in the Bible through UBF. Jesus became my Christ, my Saviour and Lord. He forgave my sins and also gave me a life of mission with a living hope of the kingdom of heaven. He has been with me in my mission land, especially at difficult times and led me to serve the ministry of God’s word at U of T campus pioneering work. He helped to solve my problems, family problems and ministry problems. I could see that he heard my prayers one by one. Now he is the one who gives me the words of life to feed his flock of sheep. And he is also the one whom I can trust in to solve the present problems, M. Sarah’s health and the gospel work in pioneering U of T. I want to experience his grace and power more and more and go deeper into the confession, “You are the Christ and the Son of the living God.” God wants each of us to have this confession and live accordingly. He wants us to have this confession before anyone in the world and let it be spread in our campuses and in our city and nation.

Third, “I will build my church”(17-20). When Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus must have been very happy. How did he respond to it? Look at verse 17. “Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” Jesus’ first words are “Blessed are you, Simon.” Here we see who are truly blessed in the world. They are those who confess, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” We remember the words in Matthew 11:25, 26, “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” It is salvation by his grace alone. No one should be proud of his or her human knowledge and effort, but all the more seek his grace.

Look at verse 18. “And I tell you that you are Peer, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Christians are those who make the confession, “You are the Christ.” What a promise it is that Jesus will build his church on such a confession! And the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 1 John 5:5 says, “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” No one, even conquerors and warriors, could overcome the world. They all perished in sin and the power of the gates of Hates. But one who believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God can overcome the world. Jesus promised that the gates of Hades would not overcome his church, the gathering of those who confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Look at verse 19. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” People have the keys of the earthly kingdom. But those who make the confession of Christ are given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. God hears the prayers of his people offered to him through the Son Jesus. God works according to the prayers of his people. May we use this privilege of prayer all the more.

Thank God for the words of Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” May this confession be alive in our hearts and lives each day and be spread in our campuses through us.

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