The Gospel According To Jesus - Week Four: "Who Do You Say That I Am?"

Today, we are continuing a sermon series that will take us through September as we explore the Gospel lectionary texts from Matthew.  

This sermon series will take us through some of the key teachings and lessons from the life of Jesus as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel—to hear the Good News directly from Jesus himself. 

Many people in our current culture claim to speak for Jesus, yet when you hold up what they are saying next to the actual words of Jesus, it doesn't add up.  

This is why it's important to go directly to the source and read Jesus's stories and teachings.  If we are going to call ourselves Jesus-followers, it makes sense to know what he wanted us to do to follow him more fully. 

Today, we will read a story where Jesus took his disciples to the Gates of Hell to explain how big the Good News is. 

And Peter makes an incredible claim about who Jesus is as well.  

Intrigued?  I hope so.  

Let’s dig deeper into Christianity's claims about Jesus—Who do we say he is?  It’s an uncomfortable question in our current culture… 

The Son of God---what does this mean, really?  
Savior---saving people from what? 
Redeemer---is it really about taking our place? 

A prophet. A teacher. A rabbi. A sage. A mystic. 

Most of us create an image of Jesus that looks an awful lot like us.  Talks like us. Acts like us.  Votes like us.  Doesn't like the same people that we don't like. 

But what if we're all missing the mark?  What if there's more to Jesus than we imagine?



Matthew 16:13-20

Background on Caesarea Philippi 

Ancient Canaanites worshipped there thousands of years before Christ.  These Canaanites engaged in barbaric forms of worship, including the sacrifice of infant children, which were thrown into the deep spring that pooled inside the massive cave at the back of the site. 

This cave was often referred to as the "Gates of Hades."  More on that in a bit. 

By the time Jesus and his disciples made the trek north from the Galilee to Caesarea Philippi, it had been shaped by Greek and then Roman influences, and was the site of the debauched worship of a variety of gods, including the Greek god Pan.  There was even a temple erected for the worship of Caesar Augustus.  

Images from Caesarea Philippi 

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Jesus asks the disciples two questions—both of which are uncomfortable
Who do people say I am?  John the Baptist, Elijah, Other prophets... 
Then Jesus asks them directly: Who do YOU say that I am?

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Peter makes a bold claim—which is what Peter does.  But let's unpack his statement.  First, he says that Jesus is the Messiah or the Christ.  

This is an acknowledgment that Jesus is the promised One who was said one day would come, lift the people of Israel out of any bondage they were in, and restore them.  

But then he adds, "The Son of the Living God."  This gives deeper meaning to the Christ.  

It means that Peter is beginning to connect the dots here that Jesus is the physical embodiment of Christ, the One who has been with God since the beginning of all things and who contains the very essence of God.  

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood but by my Father in heaven. 

18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 

Defining terms “rock” and “Gates of Hell” 

Gates of Hell refers to the cave at the mouth of the temple complex. A deep well that was believed to be a gateway to the underworld.  Child sacrifice.  

At this time, it was a grand monument to the glory of the Empire in all of it's materialism, violence, greed, power, etc. 

He calls Peter "Cephas" which means rocky.  So was he referring to Peter, or was he referring to the "rock" of truth which Peter uttered.  

19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.” 

Is he still talking to Peter here, or all of them.  What is he trying to say? He's granting authority to act in his stead.  This is what an ambassador does.  BUT the ambassador or emissary does what the King would have them do, not their selfish ambitions. 

20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Jesus frequently swore the disciples to secrecy.  Why did he do this?  It is in keeping with his teachings about revelation.  He knew that at that point, some people would get it and others wouldn't.  This didn't mean that they would never get it, but just didn't then.  

Who Is Jesus To Us?
The One who shows us the Way to abundant life if we are brave enough
The One who offers an example of sacrificial, unconditional love for all
The One who turns our life upside down, and offers us eternity right now. 
The One who welcomes everyone as they are, and loves them to more. 



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