Today’s passage is perhaps one of the most challenging passages of all Scripture. It gets to the heart of Christianity, which is the identity and the ministry of Jesus. Based on Jesus’ identity, we are to live according to who we believe Him to be.
Jesus begins by asking about His identity. He wants to know who the people, the multitude, think Him to be. And, He wants to know who the apostles think He is.
Then, Jesus makes a statement about His ministry.
There are two truths upon which we place our faith. One is the person of Jesus. We put our faith in His identity. Second, we put our faith in the work of Jesus. We put our faith in what He accomplishes.
Listen carefully. The eternal outcome of our soul is at risk. Where we spend eternity depends upon our understanding of these two essential truths about Jesus.
These ten verses are among the most important verses in the Bible. We will look at the first four verses this week, and the remaining six verses next week.
What is the identity of Jesus? “Who is the Jesus that we follow?” In other words, if Jesus looks us in the eye and asks, “Who Am I?”, how will we respond?
Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” In other words, thousands upon thousands of people run after Jesus and chase Him down. They sit for hours and listen to His teaching. Why? They think He is somebody worth spending time with, but who do they think He is?
The disciples say the same thing Herod hears people say (Luke 9:7-9). Some people in the crowd think you are a resurrected John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others say that one of the prophets has risen again. It appears that a multitude of people in Israel believes in reincarnation.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. We know from Scripture that every answer is wrong. Jesus is none of these. The people in the crowd do not know Jesus. A multitude of people is making a tragic mistake. They chase after someone who is not who they think Him to be.
People should know the identity of Jesus. When He teaches and heals, He refers to Himself as the Son of Man which is a Messianic title. He proves His power to forgive sin. Jesus tells people He is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. It would seem that the multitude is blinded by the miracles.
Jesus asks the apostles, “But who do you say that I am?”
Who are you following? Levi, who Is Jesus that you would walk away from your wealthy tax desk? What about you, Simon the Zealot? Are you following Jesus for political reasons? Do you think He is one who will overturn the Roman government? What about you fishermen, Andrew, Peter, James, and John? Why did you leave your nets and your boat to follow Jesus? You left behind a thriving fishing enterprise. Why?
Peter gives the answer and speaks on behalf of the Twelve. “You are the Christ of God.” Christ is not Jesus’ last name. It is a title. It means the anointed one. They follow Jesus because they believe Him to be the Messiah of Israel.
The apostles are correct. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus reveals to them when they begin to follow Him that He is the Messiah. He quotes prophecy and claims to be the fulfillment.
But, the identity of Jesus as the Messiah is not all they need to understand. Christians put their faith in the identity and the work of Jesus. We are also called to put our faith in His mission.
Jesus uncovers a problem. The apostles are correct in knowing Jesus is the Messiah, but they are wrong in understanding the mission of the Messiah. The Christ of God is on a mission and the disciples do not know His mission. He makes a statement to reveal their error.
Jesus says, do not tell anyone what I am going to tell you next. He says, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.”
This statement comes as a shock because the apostles know the long-term mission of the Messiah, but not the short-term mission. Jesus has a first and second coming. The first coming is for the short term mission. The second coming is for the long-term mission. When He comes the second time, Jesus will finally defeat all His enemies and sit as the victorious King on the throne of David. His kingdom will be one of eternal peace and prosperity. Every Christian is waiting for the completion of the Messiah’s second coming and the completion of His long-term mission.
The apostles know full well about the second mission, but they know nothing of the first mission. Before the long-term mission can come to fruition, the Messiah must complete the short-term mission which involves suffering, being rejected, His murder, and the resurrection. The first enemies to conquer are sin and death.
The apostles are shocked because they ignorant of the Messiah’s short-term mission. Matthew’s gospel tells us Peter’s response to Jesus is, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”
Peter will never let the future king of Israel be rejected and murdered. He will fight against the opposition. Peter makes good on his pledge on the night Jesus is betrayed and he draws his sword to strike a Roman soldier cutting off his ear.
Jesus’ rebukes Peter with harsh words. He said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." (Matthew 16:22)
Peter, and the rest of the apostles, reveal that they are following the Messiah for man’s interests. They are not God-centered. They are man-centered. They want to live in Israel with Jesus sitting on David’s throne. They desire to live in a rich and glorious Israel as the most blessed nation on earth. They look forward to the fulfillment of prophecy which says the gates of Jerusalem are kept open day and night as the wealth of the nations is brought in (Isaiah 60:11). The apostles want to sit at the left and right hand of Jesus.
Jesus says their man-centered interests are from Satan. They do not have God’s interests. They know Jesus is the Christ, but they do not know the mission of the Messiah. In that way, they are no different from the crowd. Yes, they are following the Messiah, but they are following for man-centered reasons. They want an upgrade to their life on earth. They want comfort and convenience.
The apostles are man-centered. What are God’s interests?
God’s interest in all that He does is His glory.
Creation is for His glory. Rescuing the Israelites from Egypt is accomplished for God’s glory. Establishing the Israelites in the Promised Land and their subsequent captivity in Babylon is all for God’s glory. The Bible tells us that everything God does is for His glory.
We are even to eat for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Jesus came to glorify God. God’s glory, which He divinely reveals to Moses, is that He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. The Messiah comes to uphold the glory of God.
The mission of Jesus is to display God’s glorious forgiveness and grace. And, God sends Jesus as the punishment for the guilty.
For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
It is the mission of Jesus to display the glory of God on the cross of Calvary. The Christ of God came to offer forgiveness while taking the punishment we deserve for our sins. God sends Jesus to make sinners holy and righteous. There is nothing more glorious than the cross.
At this point, the apostles are not following Jesus because He will manifest the glory of God through suffering and death. The apostles are not following Jesus to cleansed of sin and made holy and righteous. The apostles are following Jesus the King, not Jesus the Savior. They are following Jesus because of the long-term mission. They are ignorant of the prophecy foretelling the suffering of the Christ.
When Peter says, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” He is saying that he opposes Jesus’ mission to glorify God. This is why Jesus replies, “Get behind Me, Satan.”
Peter declares he will stand in the way of Jesus going to the cross. Peter is a stumbling block to the ministry of Jesus. Jesus came to glorify God, not to give the disciples a better life in this world.
The short-term mission of Jesus is to cleanse the church, His bride to prepare her for His second coming. Jesus washes His bride of sin so she may stand before the judgment seat of God, wearing a pure white wedding garment, above reproach, righteous, without sin, and with great joy.
Many people follow Jesus that do not know His identity or His mission. Many follow Him for the wrong reason. Just like in Jesus’ day, today, people follow Jesus for personal interests. They do not have God’s glory in mind.
If you follow Jesus for the wrong reason, your soul is in jeopardy. To those who oppose the ministry of the cross, Jesus says, “Get behind Me, Satan.”
Let those words sink in.
How may we oppose the ministry of the cross? Let us ask ourselves, “Which Jesus do we follow?” Which Jesus do we present to people? What do we tell them about His identity and His mission?
Let us review a few typical stories of how Jesus is presented in our culture. As we hear these stories, think of the picture of Jesus that Christians present to a lost and dying world.
A woman has trouble with her marriage. Her friend is a Christian who has a great marriage. She talks to the woman and convinces her and her husband to go to church to fix their marriage. God wants us to have a good marriage. Having a good marriage is a good testimony to Christianity. However, fixing marriages is not the primary mission of Jesus.
A child is extremely sick. The child’s parent has a coworker who tells the parent that their church is praying for the sick child. The parent is encouraged to pray and ask Jesus to heal their child. The child gets better. Healing is good. Jesus loves children. Jesus heals the sick, and He can heal the child. But, without forgiveness of sin, the child is still sick.
A young woman is lonely. She wants to marry a good man. She knows several young Christian men. They are polite, decent, and treat her well. She joins a bible study and learns about Jesus. At the bible study, people give testimonies. “Thank you, God, for my new promotion.” “Thank you, God, that my relationship with my brother is going much better.” “Thank you, God, the Supreme Court finally made a decision in favor of the church.” The young woman sees the happiness on everyone’s faces. She tells them that she wants to follow Jesus.
Which Jesus do you follow? Do you follow Jesus so you may have a better marriage? A Jesus who can heal you or a loved one? Do you follow Jesus, so you will help you get a better job? Is the Jesus you follow a vending machine for comfort to replace pain? Riches instead of poverty? Success instead of failure?
Jesus will make all things right. However, making all things right only applies to those who have forgiveness of sin. Our faith must be in Jesus first mission. Otherwise, we are putting the cart before the horse.
What is the picture of Jesus you present to a lost and dying world? Do you present a picture of a suffering Savior who came to glorify God by taking our punishment and to offer the forgiveness of sin? Or, are we like Peter, wanting to skip over the first mission to get to the second?
Jesus saves us from our sins.
Without Jesus, we are dead in our sin. We are corrupt and evil. None are good. No, not one. The world is full of immorality, greed, covetousness, and idolatry. Without holiness, we may not see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Unless the blood of Jesus washes us of our filthy sin, God has no choice but to destroy us. Our sin contaminates God’s creation.
God is good. He loves us and desires that we are forgiven and cleansed. God demonstrates His love by sending Jesus to take our punishment. We do not deserve God’s forgiveness. God offers mercy and forgiveness because He is good.
Jesus comes to the earth to die on the cross for our sins. He removes the guilty stain. The Bible describes it like this:
Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27
Jesus saves. He saves our souls from hell. He saves us from the penalty and punishment of sin. He cleanses us and gives us His holiness. Those who put their faith in the suffering Messiah receive a new life. We become new creatures in Christ. Our new self is created in the likeness of God in righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24).
The first mission of Jesus is to offer forgive us our sins and to make us holy. The mission of the cross is glorious. We cannot behold a more glorious sight.
Jesus is the suffering Messiah. The questions we need to ask are, is this the Jesus we follow and is this the Jesus we present to the world?
Do we treasure the forgiveness of sin? Do we treasure holiness? Do we value the magnitude of being made holy?
Let us think of it another way. What if forgiveness of sin is all we receive from Jesus in this life?
What if we lose our job and have no income? What if Jesus never answers our prayer for a job? Will we still follow Jesus?
What if persecution becomes rampant in our country? What if we lose friends and suffer persecution? As we sit in jail and pray for release, and Jesus does not answer, will we still follow Jesus?
What if we get sick and lose our health? What if Jesus does not answer prayers for healing? Will we still follow Jesus?
Will any of these scenarios cause us to doubt the goodness of God? Let’s say it another way. Do we find complete satisfaction in the forgiveness of sin? If all that Jesus offers us in this life is forgiveness of sin, are we satisfied?
When our treasure is a suffering Messiah who forgives sin and makes us holy, nothing else in this world matters. We find fulfillment. We do not complain or criticize no matter what life throws our way. Our life is complete. The forgiveness of sin is our great and supremely valuable treasure.
Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. If forgiveness is the treasure in our hearts, our mouth will speak of forgiveness to the world.
When we speak to unbelievers, we need to speak about the forgiveness of sins. We cannot guarantee that Jesus will fix the troubles of life. Jesus said, in this world, there will be trouble. We can guarantee forgiveness.
When we present Jesus as anything but the suffering Savior, we present the Jesus known to the multitude. They will seek Jesus for free bread and miracles. They will not seek Jesus for the forgiveness of sin.
It is not until the second coming that Jesus promises perfect health and abundance. After the second coming, we will have perfect relationships. But, none of that applies unless people put their faith in His first coming.
The mission of the church is to declare the mission of the first coming of Jesus. Our mission is to glorify God by declaring the ministry of the cross. A God-glorifying church tells a lost world about the glory of God and the glory of the cross. A God-glorifying saint knows the mission of the church is to equip the saints to proclaim salvation for sinners.
The mission of the church is to equip the saints for the ministry of saving lost sinners. It is not the primary mission of the church to fix relational problems, feed the hungry, provide worship music that we like, or make us feel good. The God-glorifying mission of the church is to equip God’s people to proclaim the glory of the cross.
Therefore, when we think about Jesus, let us treasure that He saves cleanses us from our sins. When we speak to others about Him, speak of the suffering Messiah.
When Jesus says, “Who do you say that I am?” We need to say, “You are the Messiah.”
When Jesus says, “Yes, and I suffered many things and was rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and was killed and raised on the third day.” We do not respond as Peter did, saying, “God forbid.”
We respond with, praise God! Our life is complete. We need nothing else. We are redeemed from destruction. We were full of sin and evil, and Jesus makes us holy, righteous, and good. We were lost, but now we are found. We were dead, but now we are alive. We can stand with Jesus in heaven with no shame or guilt. We are His bride. He looks at us with perfect, eternal love. Heaven is a holy and perfect place prepared for the bride of Christ to spend eternity with her Husband.
All because the Son of Man suffers many things, is rejected, and is killed and raised up on the third day.