Matthew 16:13-16 — Now when Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of man is?”
And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you, he asked, “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
In Matthew 16:13-16 Jesus asks two very important questions. The context of the story is very different from our own, but the questions are important for the same reason. Jesus is well into his three-year ministry at this point, and he is becoming well known over a wide area. And people are wondering about and discussing who he really is. It was clear that he was no ordinary man. So one time Jesus said to his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” That was an important question then and it is now.
The disciples answers to Jesus question reveal that there already was a wide diversity of opinion. Verse four says, “They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist (back from the dead), others say Elijah (it was prophesied, some thought, that he would return in the last times), and still others say Jeremiah, or another from the long line of prophets.” There was much spirited, but at this point still friendly, debate about who this miracle worker was.
Jesus then asked another question. This question is the most important question of all. “But what about you?” Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” What other people think is important, but what YOU think and believe is of greatest importance. Peter, always the first to speak and oftentimes wrong, gets it right this time: “You are the Christ,” he says, “the Son of the Living God.” Jesus then praised Peter for that statement of faith, even going on to say that his church would be built on the rock solid foundation of that confession of faith.
The question of Jesus in Matthew 16:15 is the most important question of life. Jesus asks each of us, “Who do you say that I am?” The rest of the New Testament links God’s blessings, both now and forever, to our answer to that question. Faith in Jesus is what opens the door to our relationship with God and to all he has to offer. Verse after verse in the Bible makes this abundantly clear. John 3:16 is one of the most familiar and best loved verses and for very good reason. It states the Gospel simply and clearly, stating that it all depends on what we say about Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whosoever BELIEVES IN HIM shall have eternal life.” In Jesus final instructions to his disciples in Mark 16, he commanded them to preach the Gospel to all nations, for HE WHO BELIEVES AND IS BAPTIZED SHALL BE SAVED.” In Romans 10:9 Paul described bottom line faith with these words: “If you BELIEVE in your heart that Jesus is Lord and confess with your lips that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” In John 11, speaking to Martha who was grieving the loss of her dead brother, Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who BELIEVES IN ME, though he die, yet shall he live.” In Acts 4:12 Peter proclaimed to the crowd, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is NO OTHER NAME under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Jesus said of himself in John 14:6; “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” These are just a few of many verses that say the same thing. Our answer to this question of Jesus is the most important thing in life. One’s life may be long or short, blessed with good health or troubled by ill health, full of fun and good fortune or full or sorrow and woe, for the most part wonderful or for the most part miserable; but no matter what one’s life is like or how it is lived, when life ends, all that matters then is how you answered Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”
Answer like Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” and you shall be saved. Don’t get this one wrong.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a poor sinner. Amen.
–Ancient Jesus prayer