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Who Do You Think I Am?

Scripture: Matthew 16:13-17; Text:Matthew 16:15

"He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?" (Matthew 16:15).

In the conversation that took place between our Lord and His disciples, Jesus asked them two questions. The first question was, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” The second question was, "But whom say ye that I am?" The first question was answered for us in the passage before us, but the second question we must take personally and answer individually.

Throughout the ages there has been a wide variety of ideas expressed about the true identity of Jesus Christ. There were a number of different opinions which were prevalent during the time Jesus lived and walked on earth. There were those who called Him a wine bibber and friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). Others endeavored to brand Him as a servant of satan, saying, "... He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of devils" (Luke 11:15). Some simply thought of Him as the lowly carpenter's son (Matthew 13:55).

While those lowly opinions did exist in that ancient day, the mainstream of public opinion was usually much higher. It appears that the masses of the people regarded Jesus as a very special person. Their feelings were expressed in the answers which the disciples gave to the first question "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" Those who were better acquainted with Him, who saw or heard of His miraculous works, could not deny that He was no ordinary man. They were not all in agreement about His identity, but they did agree that He was very special; therefore, some said He is John the Baptist, some said He was Elias (Elijah), others said He might be Jeremias (Jeremiah) or some other ancient prophet that had returned to life. Let us take a few moments to look deeper at each of these suppositions.

First, there were those who thought that Jesus was John the Baptist. Remember that John the Baptist had preceded Jesus and was actually the forerunner of Christ. John came to prepare the way for the public ministry of Jesus and when John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee and began to preach (Mark 1:14). John the Baptist was a rather unique individual, suddenly appearing out of nowhere (for he came out of the wilderness) and wearing strange clothing, for he dressed in raiment made of camel's hair. Even his diet was unusual for he ate locust and wild honey (Matthew 3:4). Understandably, this strange man quickly captured the attention of the people. Because he preached against sin and did not bite his tongue, even when he condemned those in high places; it is not difficult to see that with some, he quickly became an unpopular man (Luke 3:19-20). It was not long until he was put to death, having been beheaded (Mark 6:27-29).

During his brief ministry, John the Baptist had made a lasting impression on many. When Jesus appeared after John had died, it was a natural assumption that John had come back from the dead. Even Herod felt that way, for when he heard of Jesus, "he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead" (Mark 6:16). Since Jesus was such a remarkable and spectacular individual, many assumed that John the Baptist was alive again and greater than before.

The second opinion was that Jesus was Elias, which is the New Testament spelling of the Old Testament name Elijah. Elijah had been a great prophet in his day and those who knew the teachings of the Old Testament also knew that Elijah did not die. The Old Testament said that while Elijah talked with his successor, Elisha; "that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (2 Kings 2:11). In all the history of the Old Testament there were only two people who escaped death, Enoch who was translated (Genesis 5:24, Hebrews 11:5), and Elijah was miraculously taken up. When you combine that information with the fact that the Old Testament also prophesied that Elijah would return, the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together. The last writer of the Old Testament was Malachi and he wrote, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:5-6). With those words of prophecy, the Old Testament abruptly ended. The prophecy actually was fulfilled by John the Baptist for Jesus said, "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come" (Matthew 11:13-14). Evidently, the people as a whole had not connected John the Baptist and Elijah; but when Jesus came preaching and performing miracles, they assumed that He was Elijah who had returned as prophesied.

Third, there were some who thought that Jesus was Jeremias, which is the New Testament spelling of the Old Testament name Jeremiah. He was the prophet that wrote the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations. While there is no biblical reasons to expect Jeremiah to return, it was evidently a notion held by many Jews in that day. Jewish legend had surrounded Jeremiah with some curious events. It was believed that Jeremiah had taken the Ark of the covenant and the alter of incense out of the Temple and he was supposed to have hidden them in a cave for safe keeping. The Jews knew that those holy objects no longer existed among them; so hope gave support to the idea that before the Messiah came, Jeremiah would reappear and return those objects. Those who believed that idea expected at Jeremiah’s return, the glory of their religion would reappear. Those who held sacred that legend may have looked more for the return of Jeremiah, than they did for the appearance of the Messiah. When the Messiah (Jesus) came, they did not even recognize Him. Instead, they supposed that Jeremiah had returned and soon their holy objects would reappear. It did not happen as they expected.

Still, there were others who held to a fourth notion; that Jesus must be one of the ancient prophets whom God had sent in the distant past. They were not sure about the identity of the prophet and evidently made no speculations as to whether it was Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea or any of the many prophets whose writings filled the Old Testament scriptures. Evidently, they saw nothing that linked Jesus with any of them specifically, but He certainly was no mere man and must be a prophet returned from the dead or so they thought.

Thank God, I can emphatically declare that He was not who they thought. They did hold Him in high esteem, but not nearly high enough. If they had listened to the writing of the prophets instead of the conversation of the streets and market places, they might have recognized His real identity, the promised and long awaited Messiah. Perhaps they would have declared, as did the Samaritan woman; "... is not this the Christ?" (John 4:29). Yes, He was the Messiah, but He is so much more!

Since we have taken a look at the varied answers given to the first question that Jesus asked, let us now move on to give some thought to the second; "But whom say ye that I am?" This question Jesus pointedly directed to the disciples. They should have known Him best, for they lived with Him each day. They had walked along the highways, witnessed His miracles and listened to His teachings. What was their perception of Him and who did they really think He was? It was Peter who became the spokesman for the disciples and who answered the question. Jesus asked the question, "And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" What an answer! Personally, I believe that all of us ought to give a hardy "Amen" to his answer. He not only declared that Jesus was the Christ, which is synonymous with Messiah, but he declared emphatically that Jesus was (and is) the Son of God. Remember that earlier I said some thought of Jesus as the carpenter's son; well the disciples certainly knew that He was not the off spring of Joseph. They understood His true identity; Jesus was and is the Son of God.

Their answer to the question was a simple declaration of their faith in Jesus. As grand as their answer was, it was only their deep conviction which they expressed; they could not speak for us. Since they could not answer the question for us, it must be asked of us today. In every dispensation it must be asked, again and again. Before every congregation it must be rehearsed and each of us must answer! Who do you think He is and who do I believe He is? God already knows our personal answer.

(1) Many of us believe as did Peter, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The Holy Ghost came upon the virgin Mary and the power of the Highest overshadowed her; therefore, that Holy One Who was born of her, is the Son of God (Luke 1:35). While Jesus did have an earthly mother, He did not have an earthly father. He is the Son of God because Jesus was actually begotten by God the Father. John wrote, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Notice that Jesus is the only One who was begotten by the Father. All the saved are children of God (sons and daughters), but something very special is declared when Jesus is referred to as the “only begotten” Son of God. It means that no one else who will ever live, can make this claim. Now wonder that when Jesus was baptized, God in heaven acknowledged Him as His Son. Here are His words, "... This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Therefore, I preach Jesus as the Son of God.

(2) We need to also confess Him as our Saviour. It was first necessary for Him to be the Son of God, in order for Him to become the Saviour of sinners. If God is not His Father, then He would have been an ordinary man and as such would have inherited the sinful nature which has doomed all humanity. Because He was born without an earthly father, He escaped the depravity of the flesh and being without sin, He was able to die for our sins; thus saving us. It is important that we acknowledge Him as Saviour, but it takes faith to do so. Remember this, at His birth the angel said, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).

In 2 Timothy 1:10, Paul referred to Jesus as "our Saviour Jesus Christ." As our Saviour, He is the Saviour of all the elect of God, chosen out of every kindred, tongue, people and nation; for He redeemed us by His shed blood (Revelation 5:9). All that God chose in the election of grace, were given to Christ and He will not suffer the loss of even one. (Read Ephesians 1:4, Romans 11:5 and John 6:39). He does not offer to be our Saviour, but He became our Saviour when He died for our sins, giving to us eternal life. All the redeemed family of God are embraced in the word "church," as it appears in Ephesians 5:23. Paul wrote, "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body." Not one member of that "body" shall be lost, for He is the Saviour of all who are part of it. What a glorious Saviour! If you believe that He is your Saviour, you should love Him with all your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37).

(3) He is also to be acknowledged as our Master (Matthew 23:8). The word "Master" is intended to convey that He is our Teacher. Men have acknowledged and followed the teachings of many great teachers such as Socrates, Aristotle or Plato; yet none of their teachings can compare to words of Jesus. The total impact of all those great men, is nothing compared to the salvation wrought by the grace of Jesus Christ. The life changing words of our Saviour surpasses the words of all men because Jesus is the greatest of all teachers. Even now, He invites us to come to Him and learn. He said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29). By the expression "learn of me" He intends that we learn about Him (as we are doing now) and then learn from Him (as we study His teachings.)

It is sad that many who profess Him as Saviour, will not take time to learn from their Master. How is it with you? Do you spend time searching the scriptures daily (Acts 17:11)? Do you study God’s word, to shew yourself approved unto Him (1 Timothy 2:15)? If not, then do you truly regard Jesus as your Teacher? Like Nicodemus, we may know that He is a teacher Who came from God (John 3:2), but knowledge simply is not enough. We need to do more than merely echo the words of his disciples, who called Him Master and Lord (John 13:13); we need to also follow His example (John 13:15). This we can do if we learn from Him, God’s will for our lives.

(4) In addition to acknowledging Jesus as our Master, we should also confess that He is Lord. The disciples confessed Him as both; first as their Master and then as their Lord (John 13:13). Because He is our Master, we are to learn how to live; but because He is our Lord, we should live submissive to His will. If we are not willing to live by His laws and be governed by His will for us, then it makes no sense to call Him our Lord. Jesus asked this question, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Perhaps we all need to ask ourselves that question now. If we are not submissive to Him as Lord of our lives, then why do we call Him Lord?

In spite of the fact that many do not acknowledge Him as Lord, it does not change the fact that He is Lord. He is Lord of the universe, and He is Lord of our lives, whether or not we recognize it. Peter said, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). The same Jesus they crucified, was Lord over them, even though they had not understood that fact. The same Jesus who was Lord then, is Lord now and He shall ever be Lord. When time as we know it has come to an end; then all shall know that He is Lord. God gave Jesus a name above all others, that at His name every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that He is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). Why not do it now? Then having made the confession, let us live in obedience to the Lordship of Christ.

There are many other things that could and should be said of Jesus. When we have exhausted all our allotted time on earth, declaring His praises daily; we will still need to echo the words of Moses. He said, "O Lord God, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth that can do according to thy works and according to thy might?" (Deuteronomy 3:24). Those words are equally true of Jesus, for He is God (John 1:1-3). Therefore, when all that we know is confessed, and all the knowledge of men and angels is combined; we will not have told all that should be said of Him. He is Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16); yet He Who is Lord of all, is my Shepherd (Psalm 23:1).

As we have endeavored to answer that most profound question, "But whom say ye that I am?"; we find our knowledge too limited and our tongues fail us. Some may now say, "Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes have seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard” (1 Kings 10:7). Yet, my friend, one day in heaven we shall be able to perfectly declare His praise. So then, while we remain here, let us be faithful to Him who loved us, and lovingly declare Him to all who will hear us.

In conclusion, I ask again the question that Jesus asked, “ But whom say ye that I am ?” In answer to His question, can you say with the sure conviction of your heart, that He is the Son of God, your Saviour, Master and Lord? I truly hope so, and if your tongue confesses what your heart believes; then may we endeavor to obey the admonition of Paul. He wrote these important words, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:20). May we give our all to Him in service, all for His praise and glory.

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This page last updated on June 7, 2014