“Who Do You Say I Am?”
This is a more foundational question than “What did he teach?” or “What did he do?” Everything Jesus taught and did takes on a very different meaning if we do not settle the matter of "who he is." If he was just another prophet, his words would be soon forgotten. If he were only another healer, his work would be lost in the recesses of memory with all of history's other healers.
The answer to this question -- who was Jesus? -- changes everything. Either he is just one more link in a long chain of teachers or he is the centerpiece of history. He is either one more stone in a great wall or he is the cornerstone. How we answer the question, "Who was Jesus?" is of primary importance.
Today, Jesus is most often regarded as a prophet or good teacher. Sometimes, though far less often, he is seen as a madman or an egomaniac. But just as he did at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus is asking each of us the same question: "Who do you say that I am?" Forget the crowd, forget the critics -- what has God been revealing to you about him?
A Singular Location
"When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi ..."
Caesarea Philippi was abotu 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, well into gentile territory. It was the headwaters of the Jordan river, and also the headwaters of local pantheism. There is a grotto (or cave) there in Casarea Philippi where the Romans erected a temple to worship their god Pan, as well as many other related deities of their pantheon.
What a unique location for Jesus to choose for this interrogative -- it is almost as if He is taking His dsiple to a location where the conflict between pantheism and monotheis is clearly laid out. On the one hand, you have the Jordan River, the reminder to the children of Israel of the one true God who lead them through the wilderness and into the promised land. On the other hand you have a pantheon of shrines dedicated to the mythology of the Romans, and a sense that almost anything could be a god if you can only build a shrine to it..
This is much like our situation today. We are part of a global village where any and every religion, no matter how absurd is given co-equality with all others. This is something like pantheism, the system of beliefs that says everything is god. Pantheism is an enticing notion, but ultimately unsustainable. Here’s why: everybody can’t be right all the time. The Packers and the Bears cannot win the superbowl each year. The Bears really cannot. Two candidates cannot win the presidency. Every theology cannot be right -- it does not take much more than a basic examination to see that they are naturally in conflict.
A Singular Title
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
“Son of man” was a common phrase, perhaps even used by some in place of the perosnal pronoun "I". But this phrase was full of meaning for Jesus, the God who took on human flesh, Emmanuel, God with us.
“THE Christ”: The word "christ" means "anointed," and usually refers to a prophet, a priest or a king. There were many "christs" in the Old Testament -- Jeremiah and Elijah were anointed as prophets, Aaron and Eleazar were anointed as priests, David and Solomon were anointed as kings. But when Peter uses this term to describe Jesus, he does not use the indefinite article "a" but the definite article "the" -- Jesus is not a prophet, priest or king, he is the Prophet, the Priest & the King.
“THE Son of God”: demons (Mt 8.29), disciples (Mt 14.33), a centurion (Mt 27.54) -- even unwitting Caiphas (Mt 26.63) used this title for Jesus. Not "a" son of God, but "the" Son of God. True, we are all sons and daughters of God, all on equal footing with each other. But there is something singular about the title "The Son of God" that sets Jesus apart from all the rest. He is not a president, a leader, a great physician -- he is the president, the leader, the great physician.
A Singular Source
"This was not revealed to you by men, but by God."
True revelation may come through various means, but from only one source. We learn through the church, through the scriptures, through preaching, through writings, through traditions, and through experience. But these things are only the means to the end. The source of true revelation, regardless of the means, is always God.
In a time when denominationalism blurs the line between man-made traditions and God's vital truth, it is important to remember that our traditions and our leaders are merely vessels. Vessels are good and necessary. But they are not the main dish. The plate is not the cake. We must be careful as we use these vessels to remember that we do not glorify the means of the revelation, but the source of it.
Your Caesarea Philippi
Is Jesus asking you: “Who do you say that I am?”
What title will you give Him? A good teacher? A priest and mediator? A king? Or THE Prophet, THE Priest, and THE King of Kings?
Who will receive the glory for what He has revealed to you? May it never be preachers or churches or traditions of men, but may it always be God himself who receives all glory for His wonderful revelation in our hearts!