In the 16th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus asks His disciples who men say that He was. Some they reply, say that He is the Prophet Elijah; some, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Jesus then asked His disciples who they said He was.
A Great Moral Teacher?
Today it would not be uncommon to hear people say that “I don’t believe Jesus was God, but I think He was a good man, a good teacher, telling people to love their neighbours and all that…” However, if one does not believe that Jesus is God, then they cannot, having read the Gospels claim that He was a good man. In the words of C. S. Lewis “That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity)
Let us examine some of His words;
“And behold they brought to him one sick of the palsy lying in a bed. And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the man sick of the palsy: Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee.” [Matt 9;2]
Who but God can forgive sins? A man may forgive offences against himself but he cannot forgive offences against another. Yet all sin offends God and therefore only He can forgive all sins. The Jews recognised what these words implied and they accused Him of blaspheme.
“Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword.” [Matt 10;34]
He did “not come to bring a false and earthly peace-the sort of tranquillity the self-seeking person yearns for; he wants us to struggle against our own passions and against sin and its effects “(Navarre Bible, commentary on Matt. 10; 34-37). His word, “always causes a division – the word of God always divides – between those who welcome it and those who reject it.” (Pope Francis, Homily 21-3-2015).
“Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and he will give me presently more than twelve legions of angels?” [Matt 26;53]
“Again the high priest asked him, and said to him: Art thou the Christ the Son of the blessed God?
And Jesus said to him: I am. And you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of God, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” [Mark 14; 61-62]
“The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the ancients and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day rise again.” [Luke 9; 22]
” Because I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” [John 6; 38]
“Before Abraham was made, I am” [John 8;58]
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.” [John 14;6]
“I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live:
And every one that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die for ever.” [John 11; 25-26]
From these words we must realise that He did not come simply as a teacher. He claimed that He was God. There are only three options; that He knew He was not and was lying; that He thought He was because He was mad; or that He was who He said He was. It is unthinkable that a liar would preach a kingdom of Truth and refer to Himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Nor is it plausible for a mere man to be able to raise others, and himself from the dead. Nor could Christ be consider a madman, for He did not act like one and the wisdom of His words point to a mind of great intelligence. Of the three possible options, the third – that Christ was who He claimed to be – however extraordinary it may seem, is the most reasonable.
He was born to die. His whole life is a progression to the cross. He was not caught unaware and dragged unwillingly to His death, He spoke about it many times before it happened. As He approached Jerusalem He knew that He was going to die there, and He said so to His disciples. In the upper room, as they reclined at the table He knew that this was His last meal with them before His death, and as such He left behind a memorial of Himself. In the garden of Gethsemane, as the traitor betrayed Him with a kiss and the soldiers surrounded Him He did not resist them, though He made it known that He gave Himself up freely. It was the hour of the power of darkness.
“For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice.” [John 18; 37]
Scourged, beaten and bruised, His hands and feet pierced with nails, the King of Kings ascended His wooden throne. For;
“Now is the judgement of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.” [John 12; 31-32].
And upon that cross He died. God had been killed by men, and the sky turned dark and the earth shook as the Creator died at the hand of His creatures. Then He was taken down, placed in a sepulchre and a stone was rolled over the entrance. Night fell upon the world.
“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.” (G. K. Chesterton – The Everlasting Man)
The Great Question
We must now turn to the question Christ Himself asked His disciples;
“Whom do you say that I am? “[Matt 16; 15]
This is one of the most important questions that we ourselves will ever have to answer, for it will shape the very way we live our lives.
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesare′a Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli′jah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” [Matthew 16 : 13-19]
Who do you say He is?