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Luke 9:18-9:22
Key Verse: 9:22

Last week through the study of Isaiah 55, we could think of God’s invitation for all thirsty people. He invites them to the waters to buy wine and milk, and ultimately to himself. This is based on his everlasting covenant, his faithful love promised in the Scriptures. According to his faithful love, God sent his Son Jesus into this world. This is the reason why Jesus, when he came, said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me.” Today’s passage clearly reveals who the historical human Jesus actually is. The question is the most important question in the Bible and has been a timeless question throughout history. The answer to this question is “the Christ of God.” This was Peter’s confession of faith. Yet, as we study this passage, may each one of us have clear conviction from God and know the significance of the confession of Christ.

In Luke’s gospel the Great Galilean Ministry ends with the event of Jesus’ feeding the five thousand. And the Perean Ministry starts from chapter 9:51. Luke 9:18-50 covers events that occurred during the Retirement Ministry. According Matthew 16:13 and Mark 8:27 the place of today’s passage was the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi. It is known to have been a heathen territory. By Philip the tetrarch, this place was enlarged, beautified, and named in honour of Caesar Augustus. Near it was a sanctuary to the pagan god Pan. This place was situated near the foot of Mount Hermon, a landscape of unforgettable picturesqueness. In this picturesque place of pagan worship, Jesus prayed in private, surely for God’s will of salvation of all mankind through his disciples, who would come to know him personally and obey the will of God.

Look at verse 18. “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’” Prayer is communication with God, seeking the will of God. While on earth, Jesus prayed, regularly and on special occasions. We remember that Jesus prayed one whole night, before calling his 12 disciples (Lk 6:12-13). In today’s passage, before giving important questions to his disciples, he prayed in private and his disciples were with him. We know that as for professors, making questions, especially for important exams, is not easy. Excellent professors make excellent questions, which can spark the minds of his students and enlighten them. After prayer, Jesus made two questions to his disciples, which may be the most significant questions in all human history. They are: “who do the crowds say I am?” and “Who do you say I am?”

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do the crowds say I am?” first. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus asked, “Who do the people say the Son of Man is?” (16:13) and in Mark, “Who do the people say I am?” (8:27). But Luke particularly used the word, “crowds,” and according to Luke Jesus asked his disciples the opinions of the crowds about himself. At this question they replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” The crowds paralleled Jesus to the most prominent prophets, John the Baptist and Elijah, known as men of God in their own generations. As we studied in Luke’s gospel, John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah (1:17). Probably the crowds saw the same spirit in Jesus. The crowds seemed to have a high view of Jesus and give much credit to him. At this point they did not regard Jesus as a rebel against Rome or a social criminal deserving death by crucifixion. Their view of Jesus seemed to be high, but it was not correct.

Actually, to Jesus the crowds’ opinion and knowledge of himself did not matter much. Rather the question, “Who do the crowds say I am?” was the leading question to the main question. What mattered to him was the disciples’ knowledge of himself. So he asked, “How about you? Who do you say I am?” This is the main question. While the first question was an objective question, this second one is a subjective question.

In society, popular opinion as most influenced by the media often becomes the overall public opinion, whether or not the opinion is correct. Popular opinion influences people greatly, especially in our time through media. Most people tend to follow public opinion without much consideration of its truthfulness, unless it directly affects their personal lives. People are comfortable with public, popular opinions. In our days no one thinks that Jesus was a bad guy. The crowds of people are apt to place Jesus in the category of a few great men in history, and they seem to be content with that view and opinion about Jesus. In our society there seems to be a stigmatism towards those who go beyond the public opinion. Then who is Jesus?

Look at verse 20b. “Peter answered, ‘The Christ of God.’” Nobody appointed Peter as their spokesman, but he answered spontaneously. Usually, Peter’s answers were incorrect, but this time, he was correct. According to Matthew Jesus was satisfied with this answer, saying, “Blessed are you, Simon, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” This is the correct view of Jesus. Then what does “the Christ of God” mean?

Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew Messiah, which literally means, “the anointed.” In the Old Testament, kings (1 Sa 10:1; 16:13; 2 Sa 2:4,7; 5:3; 1 Kings 1:34,39;), prophets (1 Kings 19:16; Ps 105:15) and priests (Ex 29:7; 30:30; Num 3:3; 35:25) were anointed. No one could play any two roles (1 Sa 13:12b-13a; 2 Ch 26:16-21). But Jesus was anointed for all three. He is our King, Prophet and Priest, especially, our eternal King with an everlasting kingdom (Lk 1:32,33), eternal Prophet to give words of eternal life (Heb 1:2), and eternal Priest, who offered through eternal Spirit himself as an atoning sacrifice to God (Heb 9:14). The Christ of God stresses being anointed directly by God. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove and a voice came from heaven saying, “You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am pleased” (Lk 3:22). Jesus is the Anointed One prophesied in Isaiah 61:1, Daniel 9:25, 26 and Psalm 2:2. In a synagogue of his home town of Nazareth Jesus read Isaiah 61:1 and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:18, 21). And before his death on the cross, a woman poured perfume on his head at Bethany, and Jesus accepted it as a preparation for his burial (Mt 26:12; Mk 14:8; Jn 12:7). This was none other than God’s anointing him before his death and burial as the Anointed One. And in Acts 4:26,27 the apostles and the believers called Jesus in prayer as the Lord’s Anointed One, quoting Psalm 2:2.

We can understand the Christ of God in light of Luke’s gospel. When Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord said, “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (2:11). The term “Christ” is used by an angel for the first time. And Christ meant a Saviour. At the time of Jesus’ birth the Jewish people were waiting for the Messiah, who would save them from their miserable human conditions. There were waiting people. One of them was Simeon. As for Simeon, it has been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (2:26). When he saw the Lord’s Christ in the baby Jesus, Simeon was happy to die and praised God, saying, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people.” Here, Christ definitely involves salvation. And according to the whole Bible at the very moment men sinned in the Garden of Eden, God promised to send a Saviour from the offspring of woman (Ge 3:15). In Luke’s gospel, it is clearly written that the Saviour was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of virgin Mary, and so he was be called the Son of the God. So in short the Christ is a Saviour, and the Son of God.

Peter was the first person in history who made the confession of Christ. Then how could Peter come to have this confession, “the Christ of God”? Of course it was God’s revelation to him. Yet, it also came from experiencing the human Jesus. When we think of Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” we see that the primary purpose of Jesus’ calling Peter and living a common life with him was to reveal himself, the person, to Peter. For the past two and half years, Peter’s life together with Jesus was extraordinary. Certainly, through this life with Jesus, Peter experienced more than a man. First of all, through a great catch of fish, he could personally see a holy God in Jesus and find himself as an obvious sinner, afraid to stand before him. But Jesus did not condemn him; rather he took away his fear and called him as a disciple with the promise, “From now on you will catch men” (Lk 5:4-1). At this encounter, his spiritual eyes began to open to see Jesus. Since then, every event was not an ordinary event. Peter could clearly see Jesus proclaiming forgiveness of sin, healing all kinds of diseases, calming the storm, driving out demons and even exercising power over death. At the command of Jesus, things happened as he said; even evil spirits obeyed him. Furthermore, he received the words of God from Jesus (Jn 6:68). So he could say in 1 Peter 1:23-25, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’” Jesus did what no one in the world could do. To Peter, Jesus was not just a great prophet like John the Baptist or Elijah. Jesus does not belong to human realm. Jesus is the Saviour and Lord, and the Son of God. So at the question, “Who do you say I am?” he promptly confessed, “The Christ of God.”

In John 4, even a Samaritan woman was waiting for the Messiah. After talking with Jesus her spiritual eyes were gradually opened and she said, “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” Afterward, she went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (Jn 4:29) So this Christ is everything to everybody. Jesus was the true husband to the Samaritan woman. He is a friend to sinners. He is the eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. He is the father to the fatherless. He is the comforter to the sorrowful. He is the solution to any and every human problem.

In this current day and age, the word “Christ” seems to be a very ordinary and common word, and people even swear with this word. Yet in all the considerations we made above, we can say that “Christ” is the most important word in human history and “Jesus is the Christ of God”, the greatest message to all mankind.

When Peter made the confession, “the Christ of God,” Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. It was because there were many secular Jews who wanted to establish a political messianic king through Jesus, or otherwise todestroy him. The time for the Christ of God to be known to the public had not yet come. And Jesus said in verse 22. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” The Messiah seemed to be the mighty and glorious one when he calmed the storm, drove out all the demons and raised the dead and so many people followed him. But surprisingly he would be the suffering Messiah, being rejected by the religious leaders and finally killed. This was to the antithesis of the Jewish psyche, and also shocking to Jesus’ disciples. The Jews expected a glorious and conquering Messiah who would save their nation and make their nation above all nations of the world. However, the fact is that the suffering Messiah had already been prophesied in the Old Testament, though this was hidden to the egocentric and bigoted Jews. Isaiah 53, the whole chapter is concerning the suffering Messiah. Particularly 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” It was God’s plan that his Son Jesus would die for man’s sins. For the sin problem is the fundamental problem of mankind before the holy God. All other human problems are secondary problems which will be solved in but a matter of time, once the sin problem is solved. The only way to resolve man’s sin problem is the death of his innocent, sinless Son. There would be no other way for this, even by God. And then Jesus would be raised to life. So the concise and complete sign or proof of the Messiah is his death for man’s sins and his resurrection from the dead. This is the gospel, the timeless truth to all mankind. There is no other Messiah, for no one died for man’s sins and nobody rose again from the dead to eternity for man.

Ever since Peter made the confession of Christ, numerous people in history made this confession of Christ. Romans 10:9-10 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is the Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” We see the importance of confession. It is related to our salvation. When we think of the early Christian era, the world was the Roman world. So the simple confession of Christ put the person's life in jeopardy. But they were willing to give their lives for this confession of Christ, for they refused to lose the eternal salvation through Christ Jesus.

Undeniably we are living in a democratic and open society, especially in North America. But strangely it does not seem to be so, especially when it comes to Christian belief. There seems to be even no religious freedom. Last week I was surprised to hear that the entire University of California system has now derecognized Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. All 27 campuses of the University of California system, America’s largest network of public universities banned IVF. because the reason cited is that IVF held a specific set of beliefs – a very short set of beliefs – that were required of all in leadership. In actuality, their requirements were none other than the requirements of biblical authority, of Christian orthodox. Yet to the new thought police on America’s college and University campuses, such requirements seemed to make some moral judgment that would be negative towards someone, or anyone’s, sexual practices or sexual orientation. To my understanding this is from sheer ignorance of who Christians are and what Christian community is like. Christians are those who make the confession of Christ, recognizing themselves as sinners and believing that Christ Jesus is their Saviour through his death and resurrection. So those who do not recognize their sins and repent are not Christians, whosoever. And nonetheless to say Christian leaders are to be Christians with the unambiguous confession of Christ. The fact that IVF was rejected by the University of California makes us wonder why such religious oppression happens in North America campuses. We can foresee that this case will influence many other campuses of North America. It is likely that the trend of the world is to eliminate the Christian faith on the earth forcibly, even though we seem to live in the most civilized and intellectual era in all human history. This is none other than a spiritual war, which has been going on in each and every generation, though with slight differences in degree.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” And it is clearly written in Luke 2:34, “Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause he falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoke against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” Even those who are very kind, when they hear of Christ and Christian faith, become unreasonably outraged. That’s not just a human problem between people but spiritual problem in which the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms are involved (Eph 6:12). But with faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, we can overcome the world. 1 John 5:5 says, “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

We thank and praise God for sending Jesus, the Christ of God, into this world. Thank God for his death on the cross for our sins and his resurrection for our eternal victory over sin and death and the evil spirits. May we keep the confession “The Christ of God” in our hearts and live accordingly and preach Christ in our generation against the trend of the world.

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