“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 16:13-17 ESV
Jesus asked his disciples to tell him the various opinions of the people about who they thought he was. I want you to notice that all of the opinions were positive in nature, all are men of God and all are prophets. So, overall, the identification of Jesus was not a negative, but a positive one in the eyes of the people.
Today, the views of people about Jesus are still very positive. Most people have good things to say about Christ. If Jesus were to ask us the same question, how might some people answer? Here are a few answers we might hear:
Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church, also known as the “Moonies”, whose membership is estimated to be 1-2 million worldwide said this:
“Jesus, on earth, was a man no different from us except for the fact that he was without original sin. Even in the spirit world after his resurrection, he lives as a spirit man with his disciples….Jesus is not God himself.” (Divine Principle, 212)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons whose worldwide membership is estimated at 9 million members with 4.5 million members in the United States alone, believe and teach among other things that:
- Jesus was born as a spirit-child of heavenly parents
- Jesus was the first born of all other spirit children, including Lucifer, Adam and all humanity.
“The appointment of Jesus to be savior of the world was contested by one of the other sons of God. He was called Lucifer, son of the morning….This spirit brother of Jesus desperately tried to become the savior of mankind.” (Milton Hunter, Gospel Through the Ages, 15.)
Freemasons who number at about 2.5 million master masons in the U.S. stated in their publication “New Age Magazine,”
“If every man were a perfect imitator of the great, wise, good teacher, divine or human, inspired or only a reforming Essene, it must be agreed that his teachings are far nobler than those of Socrates, Plato, Mohammed, or any of the other great moralists and reformers of the world.” (Feb. 1943; 719)
Hinduism with over 700 million followers in India alone is 13% of the world’s population. This polytheistic religion is so varied that it is difficult to find any one person who can speak for it as a whole. In general, Hindus believe that Jesus was a great religious leader.
“The great masters of India mold their lives by the same godly ideals that animated Jesus. Freemen all, lords of themselves, the yogi-christs of India are of the immortal fraternity.” (Yogananda)
Islam, has an estimated worldwide following of about 23% of the world’s population or 1.57 billion people. Listen to what the Quran says about Jesus,
“O people of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter naught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and his word which he conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from him. So believe in Allah and his messengers, and say not “Three”—Cease! (It is) better for you!—Allah is only one God. Far is it removed from his transcendent majesty that he should have a son.” (4:171).
So, to sum up these opinions, Jesus is
- A spirit man
- A son of God among many
- A noble moralist and philosopher
- A yogi-christ
- A messenger of Allah
And I have not even mentioned the opinions of Buddhists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, New Agers, or Scientologists, to say nothing of humanists, agnostics and atheists. But you get the picture!
I want you to see that none of these groups deny Jesus’ goodness or existence. They are all affirming and positive, just like the opinions of those in Jesus’ day. But to those who have walked with Jesus, His disciples, he addressed the question about who THEY thought that he was.
WHO IS THIS JESUS?
1. He is the Messiah (Christ).
Although Jesus was careful when he used this title, he did not deny it. Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) both mean, “chosen one.” Because of the misunderstanding that so many had about what the Messiah would come and do, Jesus did not readily identify himself as “the Christ.” But to his little band of followers he would allow it.
The Old Testament gave evidence that the ideas about who the Messiah would be and what he would do was much fuller than the popular idea of a conquering king. The Old Testament points to a much clearer picture of the Messiah than most were able to see, but Peter saw a clearer picture of Jesus than most. Jesus was clearly the Messiah of the Old Testament.
2. He is the Son of God
Not “a son of god” as a polytheist might believe.
Not a created being as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims believe.
He is THE Son of God. The Only Son. The Jews understood this. When Jesus claimed to be God’s Son in John 10:24-39, they attempted to stone him to death because, they said, he being a man made himself out to be God.
3. He is the Son of the Living God
Not Vishnu, Ganesh or Buddha. Not Allah, Krishna, or “the god of your own understanding.”No! He is the Son of the one, true and living God. This is over and against all false and imaginary gods who ALL find their origin in the pit of hell!
Peter had seen and heard what many other Jews had seen and heard, but he and the other disciples had come to a different conclusion.
How did he see what so many others had missed? First, it was not a human revelation. Peter had not discovered this on his own, nor was he taught these truths from a human teacher. Secondly, Peter’s spiritual sight was a product of divine intervention. Jesus said that God, his Father in heaven had revealed or uncovered this great truth for him.
Without God, man is doubly blind to the truth. His own sin blinds his and so does Satan, the god of this world.
Therefore, we should not be surprised when people call for so-called tolerance of all religious viewpoints, even when they are contradictory and mutually exclusive.
We should not think that we can simply say out the truth with forceful argumentation and people with be saved by the sheer force of our arguments. Spiritual blinders must be removed by God—through prayer and gospel witnessing.
Religious pluralism is incompatible with biblical Christianity. The truth claims of the Bible are rigid, exclusive and unbending. This is very unpopular in our day and if you stand for the truth you may be labeled as a bigot and intolerant. 2Tim 2:3 reminds us, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God! Therefore, he suffered, bled and died for us, rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of God Almighty. And he is coming again! Let us preach his gospel until he comes (Acts 1:8). Let us stand firm, steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1Cor 15:58).