Wednesday, January 22, 2014

CHRISTOLOGY 101/102 (Matthew Chapter 16)

It was an important question.  Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is” (Matthew 16:13)?  The disciple’s responded, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:14).  Such were the opinions of that day.

How would people answer that same question in our day: “Who do people say that Jesus is?”  Some would deny His existence, others would acknowledge Him to have been a good man, still others would parrot the false teachings of their various false religions.  Few would give a correct response.  In that day and this there were/are a myriad of ideas concerning the identity and nature of the person of Jesus.

Jesus had another question for His disciples: “But who do you say that I am” (Matthew 16:15)?  This question is more personal, not what do PEOPLE say, but what do YOU say?  It is more than an academic or theological matter.  The question’s has to do with a matter having relevance to a person’s eternal destiny (John 20:30-31; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9; 1 John 4:2). 

Peter was ready with an answer.  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” he said (Matthew 16:16).  It was the right answer, and Jesus commended him for it.  But how did he know it?  It was not something that Peter figured out.  Neither was it something that someone else told him.  It was, instead, truth revealed to him from the Father: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17)?  The Father made the truth about Jesus known to Peter!  Indeed how blessed are those who have had the truth about Jesus Spirit-revealed to them!  They are privileged beyond measure and possess priceless treasure: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay…(2 Corinthians 4:6-7a).”

Peter was commended (called “blessed”) because he knew the right answer.  In Christology 101 (The Person of Christ) he got an “A+”.  But he didn’t fair so well in Christology 102 (The work of Christ).  Jesus began speaking to His disciples about His pending sufferings and sacrifice and resurrection (Matthew 16:21-23).  Though “He was stating the matter plainly,” Peter didn’t understand.  None of the disciples understood (Cf. Mark 9:31-32).  But Peter, was forthright in his lack of understanding: “Far be it from you, Lord!  This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 26:22).  Jesus’ response was immediate and direct: “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a hindrance to me.  For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23).  In short order Peter had plummeted from the heights of the thrill of victory to the depths of the agony of defeat.  In one conversation He was both commended by Jesus and condemned as “Satan”!  What an incredible reversal of fortune!  Peter’s report card: “A+” in Christology 101; “F-“ in Christology 102.  Things would get even worse for him—the day would come when he would deny even knowing Jesus, even as Jesus was making His way to the cross.

There are some who know something of the facts of who Jesus is, but fail to comprehend the nature of His work.  Incumbent in His warning to His disciples was the truth that Jesus’ death was according to God’s plan (Matthew 16:21-23; Acts 2:23).  Some think of the cross as the tragic and premature end to a good man’s life.  That’s not what happened.  God sent His only begotten Son to die  (John 3:16).  Jesus purposed to die: “For the Son of Man serve and give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  The cross was no accident.  And though it (the cross) be counted foolish by some, and a cause for stumbling to others—it is gloried in by those who have experienced its power (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24; Galatians 6:14). 

Things changed for Peter after the resurrection.  By the Spirit he was given a new understanding of the truth he previously rebuked Jesus for.  With a changed perspective regarding the cross He faithfully bore witness to the power of the cross to save. Who is Jesus?  Why did He die on a cross?  Blessed are those who have been Spirit-led to gain understanding of these truths that they might trust in God’s provision!

No comments: