Know the Truth
Who Do You Say I Am?
Two millennia ago, Jesus asked his disciples two questions: “Who do people say that I am?” “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:27-29; Matthew16:13-16) The answers were typical for the times. There was a sense in the air of impending doom. So, some said Jesus was John the Baptist, or Eli, or another prophet. To make this more plausible, there had been an Old Testament prediction about the return of Elijah the prophet to warn of the day of judgment (Malachi 4:5), and John the Baptist, Jesus’ forerunner, was regularly connected with him (Mark 6:14). But this was not the right answer.
For that, Jesus turned to Peter, one of his followers. He answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mark 8:29; Matthew 16:16) Jesus then blessed Peter and affirmed to him and everyone else, that all his followers, present and future, would be grounded in this accurate confession. The expression “Christ” means “anointed one,” and it refers to the one designated by God to carry out his work on the earth. In the Old Testament various leaders were anointed to signify their calling, and the full power of the Holy Spirit (represented by the oil) to carry-out the job. Jesus was God’s specially anointed one, as he would preach, heal, and then die and be raised again, all for the sake of God’s people.
He was no ordinary gifted man, but, as the confession goes on to say, he was the Son of the living God. As thereveals it, God is one, and also in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Called the , this God is both one and three, in a divine mystery, but one that we can know truly, though not exhaustively. We can all believe in this God, the Creator and Redeemer. God came to earth, took on human flesh, adding humanity to his divinity, in an extraordinary move known as the Incarnation. He did this out of love for his people. The Incarnation allowed Jesus not only to teach and heal, but to die on a horrible instrument of torture used by the Romans, known as the cross. By this means, he took our place. His death meant our death was not forever. His resurrection meant we now have eternal life. We who deserve only condemnation because of the mess we have made out of our lives, can now become a “new creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The fellowship of believers came to be known as the Church. These “called-out ones” are joined to one another through Jesus Christ. Not only are they joined together, but as Christ’s followers (“Christians”), they are in an everlasting friendship and union with God. Although the Church has an institutional aspect, it is primarily a great, worldwide fellowship of those who know God personally. Although it is a special privilege to gather for worship (typically on Sundays, often in a building), Christians enjoy their identity and calling wherever they are. They are full-time followers of Christ in every realm of life.
How can we belong to this fellowship of redeemed people? Not by being good. God certainly approves of good people doing good works, but when we are honest with ourselves we realize our good works can never merit our friendship with God. God demands perfection, and we are as far away from that high standard as the earth is from the farthest galaxy. Nor by being religious. Going to church, praying, charitable giving, all are good in themselves. But none of us is so perfectly devoted to God that we can claim his approval. The truth is, we stand in jeopardy before God, because we have offended him, we have committed cosmic treason. By thought, word and deed, we have gone our own way, even though we know in our conscience how we really ought to live.
The only way to enter into his friendship is to trust in him, to lift up the empty hands of faith and receive his free gift (Romans 3:22; 6:23). But in order to believe, you must know this Christ, at least in a fundamental way. To put it another way, you must confess, along with Peter, that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
When we consider Jesus Christ, we have to be careful not to patronize him. We have to realize that he is either a monster, or the very essence of truth. It will not do to call him a great religious leader, or a moral guide. He certainly brought great moral insights to us. But they are always tied to his identity as God’s Son. His declarations are simply outrageous, unless true. “I am the light of the world.” “I am the way the truth and the life.” “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8:58) He never said, “I can teach you well.” Rather, he said, “I am,” which is a claim to divinity, based on Exodus 3:14, where God says to Moses, “I am that I am.” His audience did not misread him, for they picked up stones in order to put him to death. He narrowly escaped. They eventually succeeded, but that was part of the plan. Who is he? Is he a deluded charismatic leader? Psychologically deranged? He certainly did not act that way. Or is he God? No question, he had to be God in the flesh, come to bring the message of redemption to a badly broken world.
Marvelously, God is a loving Person who made himself human, in order to find us, his lost sheep, and bring us into the safety of his fold. He did this by accomplishing what we failed to accomplish in our lives. Think of it! God is in three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Together, they are One God. And the Second Person became a man in order to do what we failed to do: perfectly obey the Father. Furthermore, he came to submit to the penal requirements we deserved, so that we would not have to be banished from his presence. Thus, his life was a substitute for believers who did not live well; his death was a substitute for believers who would come and trust him; and his resurrection from the dead is his substitute for believers who cannot of themselves be triumphant and victorious over all the forces of evil. By his extraordinary work, Jesus acquired the power to make us just, acquitted before God. And now, God looks at his people through Christ, whose entire accomplishment is credited to us, though we don’t deserve it.
Are you wandering, not sure about truth, lost in your search for identity? Do you know yourself to be guilty of unfaithfulness before the living God? Do you know you need to be saved from your moral compromise and mediocrity? Well then, there is very good news for you. This god has not hidden himself, but made himself known. You can read about him in the Bible, his holy word. God, through his Son Jesus Christ, appeals to you to come to him, to embrace him, and to ask him to forgive you, and make you his child. For you see, anyone who receives him, anyone who believes in his name, has the right to become a child of God. (John 1:12) This Jesus, whom Peter rightly identified, is still building his Church toady. And he wants you in it! Lift up the empty hands of faith and trust him for your salvation. Come to him on your knees and pray this prayer:
O Lord, I am lost without you. My life is empty without your truth and your love. I commit my life to you. Please take me as your own. Forgive me for all my offenses and give me freedom and power to do good. Reconcile me with yourself. Look at me only through the work of Jesus, and enable me to live for him. Thank you that you care for someone like me. Thank you that you welcome me into heaven, because your love knows no bounds. Lord, I now trust you. Help me to grow in grace and guide me in all my ways. In Christ’s name, Amen.