Who do you say that I AM?
George Methodist church
With Peter Veysie
14th June 2020
I have been wrestling over this last week with the rather difficult question that we all need to answer and that is quite a simple qustion but it has deep relevance for the way in which we are followers of Christ. The question is – “Who do you say that I am?”
It is a deeper question because I have found that there are so many views on this and theological and denominational differences on the topic. Some seem to have placed themselves in positions of authority without a real understanding of servanthood and humility. I really struggle with titles and how we can as clergy(even that sounds strange) hide behind our dog collars and doctrine.
I am tired of the church being defined more by it’s name rather than Jesus himself and so who is this man to you ? I want to explore the scripture from Matthew 16 and let’s unpack it together :
Matthew 16: 13 -20
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
The background to Caesarea Philippi
A city of Greek-Roman culture known for its worship of foreign gods, Jesus announced he would establish a church and gave authority over it to Peter.
When Christ asked, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” it was Simon Peter who was inspired to answer: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
In reply, Christ declared: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-20)
Situated 40km north of the Sea of Galilee, the region of Caesarea Philippi was the furthest north Jesus took his disciples.
Cult of Pan flourished
Shrines to Pan at Caesarea Philippi
The city had been known as Banias, an Arabic pronunciation of Panias (there is no p in Arabic). This name honoured the Greek god Pan — a half-man, half-goat deity often depicted playing a flute — who was worshipped here.
When Jesus passed this way, the area was ruled by Herod the Great’s son Philip, who had renamed the city Caesarea. To distinguish it from the coastal Caesarea Maritima, it became known as Caesarea Philippi.
The city had been built near the Banias spring, which gushes from a massive rock face and flows into one of the streams that form the Jordan River.
Here the cult of Pan flourished. East of a large cave are the remains of shrines to Pan and inscriptions, from the 2nd century, bearing his name.
2. Who do people say the son of Man is ?
Where is “Son of Man” found in the Old Testament?
1. Psalms: “Return to us, God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine, the root your right hand has planted, the son you have raised up for yourself. Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish. Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself. Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. Restore us, LORD God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:14-19).
2. Ezekiel: In the book of Ezekiel alone, God calls the prophet “son of man” 93 times. In this context, he was referring to Ezekiel as a human being. It’s not until we get to the book of Daniel that we see “son of man” take on greater significance.
3. Daniel: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
Where is “Son of Man” found in the New Testament?
In the New Testament, the phrase is found over 80 times. Here is just a sampling of those verses, usually when Jesus is referring to himself.
Matthew 8:20: Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Matthew 9:6: But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”
Matthew 11:19: The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.
Matthew 12:40: For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Matthew 17:12: But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.”
Matthew 17:22: When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”
Matthew 19:28: Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Matthew 20:28: Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Matthew 25:31: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.
Matthew 26:2: As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.
Matthew 26:24: The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.
Matthew 26:45: Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.”
Mark 8:31: He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
Luke 22:48: … but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Revelation 14:14: I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
What Does “Son of Man” Mean?
Jesus often called himself the Son of Man as part of his interactions with people. On the one hand, saying he was the Son of Man would have been a very ordinary thing to say. Like it’s use in Ezekiel, ‘son of man’ can simply mean, ‘human being.’ But of course, Jesus also was speaking to his identity as the Messiah. He was alluding to Daniel 7, claiming his Messiahship and his role in the redemption of the world.
Jesus’ humanity mattered. Jesus was conceived by the Spirit and full of the Spirit of God, but he was birthed by Mary and born as a man. His ability to sympathize in all of our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15) and not sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), means he was and is the only one who could redeem us.
Similarly, his sonship can teach us a lot about himself. In Matthew 3:17 we read, “And a voice from Heaven said, ‘This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.’” In Judaism, the firstborn son is viewed as significant in “the redemption of the first-born son.” This is a commandment in Jewish culture where the firstborn son is “redeemed” and predestined to serve as a priest. The firstborn son was also given a double portion of the inheritance. Sons were viewed in this time as being chosen, prepared with purpose, and to carry on the vision of the father. This helps shape the significance of Jesus being called the Son of Man.
It is said that Jesus’ favorite self-designation is the Son of Man. One example is in Mark 10:45 where Jesus says, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to service and to give his life as a ransom for many.” As you’ll notice in many of these references, Jesus use of the Son of Man is used in conjunction with his prophetic words about his own suffering. He deeply related to the suffering of his fellow humans.
Jesus was also a humble man and was not associated with a lavish lifestyle or personality. He was a carpenter and his teaching was consistently connected with humility and love for others above himself. He served men, much like a son serves his family. Overall, Jesus was here to follow the will of the Father, and that will was for Jesus to serve people in order to be the bridge to the Father.
To those that were more spiritually inclined, when Jesus called himself the Son of Man they would have recognized the implications was also quietly interpreted as the Messiah. Had Jesus gone around claiming himself as the Messiah alone, He may have been crucified much earlier than He had. In Matthew 16:20, Jesus warned the disciples “… not to tell anyone he was the Messiah.” Claiming himself as the Son of Man gave him the best platform to connect with people in all walks of life.
The connection between the two Testaments is clear. The last two verses of the Old Testament read:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction. (Mal. 4:5–6)
Then the New Testament narrative picks up with an old, God-fearing priest named Zechariah. He was in the temple burning incense when an angel appeared and told him that his wife was going to bear him a son who would
turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. (Luke 1:16–17)
Getting to the Point
This prophet who came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” was John the Baptist. His role was to point the way to Jesus. And in effect, this is what the entire New Testament does. It presents Jesus’s life, teaching, ministry, death, and resurrection in such a way that we must come to terms with Him. From the moment Jesus came on the scene, it was clear that He was different. His actions, teaching, and ministry came as a surprise to virtually everyone who crossed His path. But before we go too far into the story, take a minute to experience the beginning of Jesus’s ministry.
Jesus the Messiah
Jesus once asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15–16). We are so used to the term Christ that it probably doesn’t stand out to you. Yet it was significant to Peter, and it should be significant to us as well.
Remember that Israel was waiting for the Messiah, the King who would come from the line of David. When Jesus was referred to as “the Christ,” He was being identified as that Messiah. “Christ” is simply the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. So to refer to Jesus as the Christ is huge because we are saying that He is the promised Messiah—the person through whom God would accomplish His plan of redemption. God’s ultimate solution to the problem of sin had arrived. Paul even referred to this moment as “the fullness of time,” the culmination of human history (Gal. 4:4)! So important is the New Testament claim that Jesus is the Messiah that John wrote his gospel to prove this one point: “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
3. Why is Caesarea Phillipi so significant in the story and what does it tell us about hell?
The Gates of Hell
To the pagan mind, the cave at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld, where fertility gods lived during the winter. They committed detestable acts to worship these false gods.
Caesarea Philippi’s location was especially unique because it stood at the base of a cliff where spring water flowed. At one time, the water ran directly from the mouth of a cave set in the bottom of the cliff.
The pagans of Jesus’ day commonly believed that their fertility gods lived in the underworld during the winter and returned to earth each spring. They saw water as a symbol of the underworld and thought that their gods traveled to and from that world through caves.
To the pagan mind, then, the cave and spring water at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld. They believed that their city was literally at the gates of the underworld the gates of hell.
We need to see two things here and that is that firstly it was not Peter that Jesus was buildiong his church on because it is built on Him,but rather the confession and recognition that Jesus was the Messiah the son of the Living God. This is so profound in many ways because of the fact that he got it. The second thing is the context and where they are standing and Jesus quite literally points to the gates of hell and declares that not even the darkest evil could overcome the light of the Gospel. It was a declaration that was fulfilled on the cross when death was ultimately defeated and of course through the resurrection.
We really need to understand the context of scripture when dealing with spiritual truth and in doing so we need to be careful to not quote scripture out of context just like Jeremiah 29:11 last week.
We need to also identify with who Jesus is is and when he calls himself the son of man what that actually means ?
The very big question is really about relationship today. When you talk about somebody you really love and know you will get a special expression or way of talking about them. Barbara and her mom Louise and I asked her what words would describe her mom and she said : “perfectly loving”.
Who do you say that Jesus is in your own life and part of that is the testimony of what He has done in your life ? As we journey on, I pray that you will be able to not only answer that question with all your honest heart but that you will be able to say that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of the Living God.