Intro – One day with Mom and Dad gone, brother Jon, age 15, got ahold of the car keys and helped himself to a ride in Dad’s brand new Ford station wagon. Naturally, his sin found him out when he backed into a fence and put a heavy scratch on the rear fender. When I found out, we connived to save his miserable skin. Somehow we found a fast body shop, but it cost us every penny we could find. We learned deep holes means big costs! Now, the Bible teaches man’s been in deep hole since the Fall. We get sin as our birthright, and make our own daily contributions. There’s a solution, but it’s very costly.
With the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus’ ministry reaches its apex. His popularity is at an all-time high; they want to make Him king. But when Jesus insisted on repentance, John tells us in 6:60, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” He came to seek and to save the lost, but a lot of the lost didn’t want to be saved. Salvation is costly.
This passage, vv. 18-27, teaches the cost of being truly saved. The crowds are still there, but enthusiasm is waning. Soon, when it’s clear they can’t control Him, they will kill Him. Knowing this, Jesus changes focus to His disciples. They go 40 miles north to Caesarea Philippi and get a critical lesson in saving faith. Without help, without outside invervention, man’s fallen condition leads straight to an eternity in hell. Salvation is costly. Jesus here insures that everyone understands the price. It costs God; it costs Jesus; and it costs us. We will address these costs with three questions – Who is Jesus? What Did Jesus Do? What Must I Do?
I. Who is Jesus? (What is the cost to the Father?)
V. 18, “Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” History’s most significant question. Who is Jesus? It reminds me of the movie where Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid are being chased by a posse. Usually no big deal. But this time, at every glance over the rocks, the posse is right on their trail. Butch begins to ask, “Who are those guys?” Who are we dealing with? That is history’s great question about Jesus. All must answer, “Who is that guy?”
Luke constantly raises this question for Theophilus, Who is this? Luke’s account of the miraculous virgin birth of Christ begs the question – Who is this? When Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic in Lu 5, the Pharisees asked, “Who – Who can forgive sins except God alone?” When He attacks Sabbath traditions they ask, Who are You to change the rules? John asks from prison, “Who exactly are you?” Jesus calms a storm causing disciples to ask, “Who then is this?” (Lu 8:25). Herod asks in 9:9, “Who is this?” And now Jesus Himself raises the question. Why? Because it differentiates! How we answer that question determines where we spend eternity. It is the greatest question you will ever answer. It is a life changing moment when you say, “Final answer”. You cannot afford to get it wrong. So use your lifelines, or anything else you have to get it right. Don’t screw this one up. So Jesus asks it in two ways. First, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” What does the man on the street say?
A. Jesus is a Man
Mid v. 18, “And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” The crowds weren’t sure. Most said John the Baptist, or even a resurrected prophet – but still just a man. They’d seen him eat, get tired, get jostled around and knew he was a man. A great man, but only a man. And they were partly right. Jesus was a man. Not any they suggested, but He was a man. One of the amazing things about Jesus is that He was a man. If He was also God, why become a man? Three reasons.
1. To Qualify as a Sacrifice for Sin – We may not like the word “sin” these days, but it’s the reason we’re in the hole we’re in, and Jesus came specifically to deal with that issue. Sin violates the character of God and, thus, cannot go unpunished – not even the tiniest thought. It must be paid for. And we can only pay by eternal separation from an infinite God.
Substitution is the only answer. But the substitute must be perfect. The last plague that finally freed Israel from Egypt was when all firstborn were killed unless the blood of a substitute lamb was on the doorpost? Exod 12:5, “Your lamb shall be without blemish.” Not just blood, flawless blood. Not the runt of the litter or the one that broke its leg yesterday. It had to be perfect. The word “without blemish” (tamim) is found 51 times in the OT emphasizing over and over the demands for perfection. Sin means sacrifice; the sacrifice must be perfect. That is what the life of Christ was all about. Before He could ever die for sin, He had to live without sin. That qualified Him as the Lamb of God.
And so Jesus did what no person has ever done. He “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). He had to do that as a man, or no sacrifice for sin. That’s why Heb 9:14 says He, “offered himself without blemish to God.” And that’s why Peter says in I Peter 1:19 we were ransomed “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” That’s the testimony of a man who watched Jesus like a hawk for 3 years and knew Him to be sinless – the perfect and only sacrifice for sin. Done as man!
2. To Become a Sacrifice for Sin – Next Jesus had to pay sin’s penalty by death. Since God can’t die, He had to be a man in order to die. Do you see the beauty of God’s perfect, incredible plan? Only God could meet His own perfect standards and qualify as a sacrifice for others, but God can’t die. The God is dead theologians of the 60’s were a bit premature! God isn’t dead and God can’t die, so He sent His Son in human form to experience death for us. Exactly what the Bible says in Heb 2:9, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels (that is, became a man), namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” There’s no greater love than that, friends. God became man so He could die for you.
3. To Judge Sin – The day must come when those who reject Christ must face Him in judgment. Jesus must be either our Savior or our Judge. Jesus says in John 5:22, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.” Peter confirms in Acts 10:42, “And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” Jesus’ life equips Him to judge. No one can say, “You don’t know what it’s like.” Jesus knows exactly what it’s like. He’s been where we are! You wouldn’t ask a farmer to judge a teacher or a barber to judge a brain surgeon, right? You’d say, “Unfair!” No one can say that to Jesus. He died to be our Savior, but if we turn Him down, He will be our judge, and no one will be able to say when they fall short, “You just don’t know,” because He knows. He had to be a man to become the ultimate judge.
B. Jesus is God’s Man (Messiah)
So the crowds were right, Jesus was a man, but they made a fatal error. They came up short! They intended comparisons with ancient prophets to be compliments. But when He claimed to be more than a man, they tried to kill Him then and there. Like us, they were happy to have a Jesus as a great prophet, but they wanted nothing to do with Him as more. Why? Why did they stop short of acknowledging Jesus is God? Because if He were more than a man, He had a claim on their life. They wanted none of that, so they denied Him -- like people still do. They still hate accountability and so they still deny Christ’s deity. BUT denying Christ’s deity doesn’t make it so. Denying that snow is white doesn’t change the fact, and neither does denying Jesus is God.
So Jesus turns in v. 20 and says, “But who do you say that I am?” “You” is emphatic. “But you, who do you say that I am?” Jesus is not looking for info here. He is not seeking help to establish His identity. This is not Jesus having an identity crisis. He’s not trying “to find himself.” He knows full well who He is. The question itself is a claim to be more than a man, else, why ask it? He wanted to know that they were catching on – that they knew Him for who He really is. That’s why He prayed just prior to this. Ultimately, the answer to this question is revealed by the Father, and Jesus was asking that the Father make this clear. That prayer is answered. Peter jumps in as spokesman and says, “The Christ of God.” “You are the Christ (the Messiah) of God”. And Jesus says in Matt 16:17, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
“Christ” translates the OT Mashiach -- the Anointed One. In the OT, prophets, priests and kings were anointed for service. But throughout the OT, there were vague but unmistakable references to an ultimate Anointed One who would be all 3. In calling Jesus Messiah, Peter was acknowledging He is the seed of the woman from Gen 3:15 who would bruise the head of the serpent, Satan. He is the lion of the tribe of Judah in Gen 49:10 – from whom the scepter of kingship would never depart. He is the Son of David from II Sam 7:13 who would establish the throne forever. He is the Son of Man from Daniel 7:13-14 who is given everlasting dominion. He is the Servant of Isa 61 who brings good news to the poor, liberty to the captives and sight to the blind. He is the fulfillment of these and hundreds of OT prophecies of a Deliverer. Peter is saying, “Jesus, you are the One. You are the Messiah of God. You do some strange things now and then – things we don’t understand – but we know, You’re the One the OT looked for. You’re it. God’s man. God’s Messiah.” The disciples had heard the claims of Jesus in His preaching and seen the verifying miracles for 2-1/2 years and they knew – He was the one.
Suppose I sent you to the airport to pick up a friend. He’ll be wearing green. Maybe that will work, but if 250 soldiers disembark at the same time, you’re in trouble! But if I say he’ll have a green coat, has blue eyes, is 6-2”, weighs 190 pounds, has blond hair and a beard, wears glasses, has a blue beret and will have his 2-year old daughter with a pink ribbon in her hair – you can’t miss. That’s exactly why the OT gives hundreds of prophecies of Messiah, hundreds of years in advance, at least 300 of which were fulfilled to the letter in the first coming of Christ. God wanted us to know – That’s the One! If you’ve rejected Him before, take a closer look. God described Him in detail. Jesus fit the bill to perfection. The disciples are eyewitnesses: “You’re the Christ of God.” So before you reject Him, investigate again. He’s God’s man.
C. Jesus is the God-Man
So, Jesus is a man, and He is God’s man, Messiah. But to fully answer, “Who is Jesus?” there’s one more step. We must see that He is the God-man – both God and man in one person unique in history. No lesser definition will do. The Jews missed this. They were looking for a Messiah, but it never dawned on them He would be God in human flesh. But the disciples gradually got it, and Peter affirms it in Mt 16:16, “Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In calling Jesus “Son of the living God”, Peter was affirming that Jesus as not just man, but God as well. Even the non-believing Jews knew this. In John 5:18 we read, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
It was this constant claim to be God that eventually got Jesus killed. He was not killed for taking up the cause of justice. He was not killed for upsetting tradition. He was killed because He persistently, purposely and insistently claimed to be God. It happens in Luke 4, and John 5, 7, 8 and 10. The crux of the whole illegal trial of Jesus was His claim to be God. Mark 14:61, “But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? (There is the question)” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.” So does everyone who refuses to accept Jesus as God.
If you consign Jesus to mere manhood, you have been tragically misled. His claims are unmistakable. We read in John 10:31, “The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” They would have Him as a man, but never as God. So they brought condemnation down on their own heads. He must be your Lord or your judge.
You remember C.S. Lewis summary: “"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ’I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ 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 the 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 patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
Conc -- “Who is Christ?” Why does it matter? Jesus answered in John 17:3-5, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” To be truly saved is to accept God’s gift of life paid for by the life of His own Son.
Imagine what it cost the Father to make “him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Cor 5:21). Think what it cost the Father to “crush Him . . . when his soul made an offering for guilt” (Isa 53:10). John Griffiths controlled a great railroad drawbridge across the Mississippi River. One day in 1937 he took his 8-year-old son, Greg, with him. At noon John lifted the bridge to allow ships through and ate lunch with Greg on the deck. Time got away from John and shortly he heard the 1:07 Memphis Express with 400 passengers on board, roaring down on him with the bridge still up. He ran to the control tower to throw the master lever to lower the bridge, but as he looked down to check for ships, is heart sank. Greg had fallen into the massive gears that operated the bridge. His left leg was caught between two main cogs. Desperately John’s mind sought for a rescue plan, but there was no time. His choice was between the lives of the 400 train passengers or his own son. Sobbing hysterically, John pushed the master switch forward. The great bridge lowered just in time and John watched through tear-stained eyes as the train rolled by with businessmen reading papers, finely dressed women sipping tea, children eating their ice cream – and no one having a clue of the sacrifice John had made for them. It recalls the words of Lam 1:12, “Is it nothing to you, all who pass by?”
My I ask, Is God’s sacrifice nothing to you, all who pass by? He gave His only Son. Now, it’s up to you. Who is Jesus? Your answer won’t change the reality of His person as the God-man. But it will decide eternally who is He to you – Savior, or Judge. What is your Final Answer? Let’s pray.