We began this series talking about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem in Matt. 21. Let’s go back to an earlier chapter. Jesus poses an important question to his disciples. By now, you’d think Jesus would not have to ask such a question. Let’s take a look at these verses: Matthew 16, verses 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,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] 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[e]loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
So what can these verses tell us? Well, let’s start with the chapters leading up to this. First, even though Jesus had plenty of followers, he had also met with constant rejection. Even John the Baptist questioned who Jesus was, remember?
With John the Baptist, and later the apostles and early church fathers, they were constantly rejected by the authorities because the religious leaders wanted nothing to do with what they had to do or say. Instead, they wanted a cookie-cutter follower of their rules and traditions. Someone they could control, someone who wouldn’t challenge their sin. Here, Jesus raises two questions to his disciples: the first one is ‘who do the people say I am,’ and then ‘who do you say I am?’ They answer that the people, in general, say that he is a prophet. When asked who do you say I am, Peter answers: “The Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The Asbury commentary said: “Jesus declares that he will build his church upon Peter’s confession and that all the forces of evil will be unable to stand before the mighty power of the church that is built upon such a foundation (16:17-19).”
You see, there was hostile fake news back then. And like the pharisees and Herod who put John the Baptist and Jesus to death, there are those today who don’t want anything to do with Jesus. There are those whom we just won’t convince. There are those who would crucify Jesus all over again if they had the chance because the Jesus of The Bible isn’t politically correct, he can’t be controlled, and they don’t want their sin challenged. What are we to make of them? We should certainly love them and pray for them no matter what. And depending on the person, maybe there comes a time when we might just have to “shake the dust off our feet.”
Then, today there are still others who say Jesus is just a prophet or a good teacher. There is still plenty of confusion out there now just as there was in Jesus’ time. People don’t really know or understand fully who this Jesus is. And to alleviate that confusion, there are people out there who long to know who you say he is. And what you have to say about him. Those are the people God is calling us to focus on. Satan is trying to make some of us focus on those who are hostile to God to get us off course of those who really want to know who Jesus is.
I remember when I was young and it seemed like preachers of that day really pressured us to evangelize. We felt like less of a Christian if we didn’t “boldly proclaim” or preach in some way, or hand out tracts or wear Christian T-shirts or hand our friends Christian cassette tapes. Because we felt a pressure to do so, we didn’t always do so naturally and out of love, talent or conviction. Instead, we did it out of a sense of duty, pressure, and legalism. That quite frankly turned our generation into the one I told you about. We became statistics. Because we felt pressured to be evangelists, we pressured people to become Christians. And that turned people off. I’m not here to pressure you to evangelize to anyone. I’m saying, just be willing to be available to anyone. Be available to use your time, your talents and your testimony in a natural, prayerful, loving Spirit-led way. This is what I meant when I said people need more than a church building or a Bible. They need us.
Okay, how do I do that? Maybe there is some way in which you can relate to someone and what they’re going through right now, some way in which God has changed your situation. What has your personal experience been? What has Christ has done for you? Do you simply believe or have you felt his presence and peace wash over you and give you strength? Have you had a prayer answered? Did you feel the weight lift off of you when you were first saved? Are you the same person now than you were before you were saved? Is your life a testimony of His supernatural transforming power over sin? How is your life better now because Jesus was actively involved in your life?
In addition to telling others about Christ, in what ways can you also demonstrate God’s love by your actions? People need to see that our faith is real by the way we live and how we treat them, not just what we say and the answers we give. In what way can you also serve your neighbor to let your light shine? Maybe you have the gift of hospitality. Did you know that hospitality is one of the spiritual gifts listed in The Bible? Sometimes, that’s all you need to plant a seed. How can you give them more than just the verbal answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?”