By Charles Earl
Former Director of Missions, Holston Valley Baptist Assoc., Rogersville
Since all of our lessons are taken from the Gospel of Matthew we need to look briefly at this man who wrote the book. The name Matthew means “gift from God.” Matthew, of course, was a Jew, and he identifies himself in Matthew 10:3 as “Matthew the tax collector.” On first blush it seems somewhat incongruous to us that a tax collector would choose to refer to himself as a tax collector of the Roman government. Tax collectors of that day were not very popular. Some would say they aren’t very popular today either, but the Jewish tax collectors of that day were not known as being very honest. In fact, they had the authority to exact as many dollars from the Jews as they possibly could because they were able to keep all that was left over after they sent what was due to Rome. But somehow Matthew was able to recognize something about Jesus that made him want to leave his tax collecting duties and follow Jesus.
In the next 13 weeks, all of our text will be taken from Matthew, chapters 16 through 28. Today we will be looking at Matthew 16:13-28. It is interesting that each of these 13 lessons begin by asking a question. Today’s lesson asks us the seemingly simple question, “Who is Jesus?”
Jesus has already been baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:15), He has already preached his “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7), and He has performed some wonderful miracles. In Matthew 10:1, we are told that He has called His twelve disciples and in 10:1a He “gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” In verses 2-4 Jesus shares with us the names of the twelve disciples.
After He continues preaching and teaching He receives an inquiry from the imprisoned John the Baptist in 11:3, “ … art Thou He (Christ) that should come, or do we look for another?”
As Jesus hears this question that two of John’s disciples brought to Him, He continues with many, many teachings and miracles. Then we come to Matthew 16:13. The twelve disciples have been hearing His teaching and seeing all His miracles and they have also been hearing all the questions the people are asking about Him.
Jesus, perhaps sensing some of the questions the twelve are asking, turns and asks them that searching question in verse 13a, “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?” They reply that some are saying He is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Jesus then turns to His twelve and asks them the question, “But Whom say ye that I am?” Ah, that’s the question of all questions! Whom say ye that I am? Peter, the self-appointed spokesman, steps forward and answers for the group: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
I wish we had the time and the space to explore the answer to that question with more specificity. Of course that is not possible. Let us just briefly outline for you in short, simple sentences some answers to that question, Who is Jesus?
First, He is just who Simon Peter said He was: “The Christ, the Son of the living God!?” (16:16).
Second, He is who God the Father said He was: “And lo, a voice from heaven saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ ”
Third, quite frankly, I can’t think of a better Scripture to prove who Jesus is than the first words we find in the first verses of the gospel of John. Do you remember them? Listen to them: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God! The Same (Christ) was in the beginning with God!” Say, how much proof do you need to prove Christ is God?
Those of us, of course, who have felt the convicting power of the Holy Spirit drawing us to Christ, and having made the decision to yield our lives to Him have no difficulty identifying Him as fully God, as the second person of the Trinity. Christ is as much God as if He were not man, and as much man as if He were not God.