Matthew 16:13-16 Matthew 16:13-16 13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Matthew 16:17-18 Matthew 16:17-18 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:19-20 Matthew 16:19-20 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.
Focus Verse John 6:68-69 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
Focus Thought It is impossible for mankind to redeem himself from the penalty of sin. Redemption is available only through God’s channel of mediation and provision—a fully qualified Messiah.
Introduction Introduction In 1911, Albert Schweitzer wrote his doctoral thesis, The Psychiatric Study of Jesus, as the final step toward receiving his medical degree. His reason for choosing this particular subject was to disprove the opinions held by the medical community of his day. Most of their writings reflected that Jesus possessed a “messiah complex” and was mentally deranged. The focus of Schweitzer’s thesis was on the messianic nature of Jesus’ ministry as He originally expressed it to His disciples, which they subsequently broadcast to all humanity.
Introduction His thesis overwhelmingly proved by both Scripture and logic that Jesus was undeniably the Messiah, and He deserved unreserved recognition as such. This lesson elaborates on this truth, and it will perhaps enable today’s Christian to have a greater understanding of the messianic identity of Jesus Christ.
Introduction For a person to grasp the true meaning of Scripture, he must consider the scriptural context. The literal interpretation of a particular word or phrase, though useful, may not yield the true meaning as it reflects the will and purpose of God. For example, the English word “apostle” comes from the Greek word apostolos, which literally means “sent one.” However, the context of Scripture reveals a far more exclusive definition of just what constitutes an apostle in the economy of God. In other words, Scripture must define Scripture in order for one to fully comprehend the accurate meaning of a particular word or passage.
Introduction Jesus exercised this principle when He utilized writings from the Old Testament to expound His identity to two travelers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:25-27). The apostles exercised this same principle throughout their writings as well. We should employ the same principle today to understand the Scriptures properly and accurately, particularly those that define by context that Jesus was the Messiah.
Introduction The apostle Peter wrote of growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18). Paul likewise wrote throughout his epistles of his need to increase in knowledge of the Lord Jesus. It is only through the Word of God that we can obtain vital knowledge necessary to a true understanding of Him. In fact, it is vital that all who ever hope to obtain salvation embrace Jesus Christ for all that He truly is. This is particularly true with regard to His identity as the Messiah.
Introduction The English term “Messiah” translates from the Hebrew word masivyach and from the Greek word messias and literally means “anointed” or “anointed one.” It is synonymous with the Greek word Christos from which we get the English word Christ. However, the abundance of Scripture—from both the Old Testament and the New Testament—yields a definition that is far more expansive. Indeed, the context implicates the crucial role of Savior inasmuch as the Messiah would save people from their sins and eternal damnation (Matthew 1:21).
Introduction God created everything in the universe for His purpose and ultimate pleasure (Revelation 4:11). Nothing exists that He did not create, and everything fits within His plan in some capacity. He even created evil (Isaiah 45:7). Because He created humanity, it is impossible for mankind with all his limitations to accurately conceive the concepts of eternity and infinity. It also is impossible for him to conceive the idea of beings existing in the spiritual realm, although we know from Scripture that they do. Thus, the magnitude and immensity of God’s plan and purpose is beyond full human comprehension, and Scripture has revealed to us what little we do know.
Introduction If we can accept the fact that within God’s nature and character is a desire to demonstrate love and compassion toward us, and that He desires us to worship Him, then we can understand how God could create a being of conscious choice. Thus, there is a need for the opposing concepts of good and evil. In recognizing the infallibility of God and the fallibility of mankind, we understand why the mandate of a messiah is vital. Truly, the perfect God demands perfection, which is impossible for mankind to achieve alone. Therefore, man can only become perfect in the sight of God through the role of a mediator—the Messiah.
The Condition of Mankind I. The Condition of Mankind David asked, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psalm 8:4). In this passage, which the writer of Hebrews restated (Hebrews 2:6), David was alluding to the purpose of mankind in God’s creation. Just what is mankind? In other words, why did God create man, and for what purpose? Most particularly, why did He create mankind with faults and flaws, whose ultimate destiny is to die?
I. The Condition of Mankind The answer to these questions lies in the fact that a dimension of reality exists that far transcends the physical realm. Because God’s eternal desire is to love His creation and to reveal His kindness to them, it was necessary for Him to create mankind in a fallible state with a choice to worship Him. The capacity for temptation on the part of man was necessary if he were to exalt God on the basis of his own desire rather than by coercion.
I. The Condition of Mankind God could have created a nation of robots whose sole function was to do nothing but sing praises to God. However, such praise would have been empty words absent the freedom of choice. Without the freedom to choose, God would receive no real glory. Only when mankind could consciously decide to serve and exalt Him could God truly receive glory. People would make conscious decisions to obey based on their faith in His Word instead of obeying what would appeal to the natural tendencies of the flesh.
I. The Condition of Mankind When people choose to believe the Word of God, they gain insight into the dimension of reality that supersedes this present world. By serving the God of the universe, they have a hope that extends far beyond the limitations of the present into a realm of reward and fulfillment scarcely imaginable. It is this hope that ignites the hearts of mankind with an appreciation and loyalty that enables them to live in such a way as to give God the greatest glory possible.
I. The Condition of Mankind Thus, mankind was created by God in his condition of fallibility in order to grant him the capability of both temptation and choice. He can choose to worship God, or he can choose to indulge the flesh. Indeed, God gave every person the freedom to choose his destiny.
The Need of Mankind for a Messiah II. The Need of Mankind for a Messiah God’s perfect and pure nature is incompatible with the flawed and fallible nature of mankind. By its character, the nature of mankind—iniquity—opposes the dominion of God. David declared, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). He further stated, “For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me” (Psalm 40:12). Because of mankind’s inherent iniquity, a great gulf exists between him and God.
II. The Need of Mankind for a Messiah Not only was the condition of human fallibility necessary for God to achieve His purpose, but also mankind had to be aware of his iniquity. David’s longings clearly reflect an awareness of his inherent iniquity and reveal a sense of mankind’s need for a messiah. (See Psalm 51:2.) We should carefully note that when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He cried out three times that if it were possible, the bitter cup would pass from Him. (See Matthew 26:39, 42, 44.) Jesus clearly did not want to die. If there had been any other way for Him to redeem mankind, then His death would not have been necessary.
II. The Need of Mankind for a Messiah However, there was no other way, and Jesus knew it. By finally crying out, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42), He was in effect admitting that it was only through the agency of a messiah that He could save mankind. He knew that His role as the Messiah was mankind’s only hope of redemption. The need for a messiah was, and continues to be, total and absolute.
The Provision of God—The Purpose of the Messiah III. The Provision of God—The Purpose of the Messiah The plan of God is intricate and precise, and God fulfills it on His exact timetable. John’s statement was the focal point of Jesus’ advent as the Messiah:
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
III. The Provision of God—The Purpose of the Messiah Because of his iniquity, mankind could never save himself. No amount of prayer or good works could ever redeem him from the destiny of eternal separation from God, however sincere he might be. Thus, the means of mankind’s redemption could not possibly originate with humanity; it had to originate with God. From the Garden of Eden until the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, the Word of God continued to pulsate with numerous allusions to the advent of a Messiah. Moreover, the central focus of the prophets provided a source of perpetual expectation in the hearts of the people of Israel, which was clearly perpetuated in the Gospel of Luke. (See Luke 2:25-38.)
III. The Provision of God—The Purpose of the Messiah However, the messianic nature of Jesus was more than the provision of a body for experiencing death. God’s intricate plan was to provide a messiah that would become the sacrifice for sins and also provide insight into the depths of God’s love for mankind. Certainly, the depth of Jesus’ suffering reflected His unconditional love for mankind. The Messiah would also provide the means for the people of Israel to know God more intimately than ever before. Indeed, by knowing Jesus, people could now know God.
The Nature of the Messiah IV. The Nature of the Messiah The apostle John stated that the works of Jesus were so numerous during His ministry on earth that he supposed “the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25). Any attempt to adequately describe Jesus in His role as the Messiah falls woefully short of all that could be said. However, it is important to note that there was much more to Jesus in His fully expounded identity as the Messiah than modern Christianity commonly perceives and teaches.
IV. The Nature of the Messiah The Messiah’s purpose was the salvation of fallen mankind, but the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ have provided for other needs of mankind as well. The basic psychological needs of a person are (1) a sense of identity, (2) a sense of ultimate destiny, and (3) a sense of purpose. A person must feel that his life has meaning, without which he feels empty and unfulfilled. The nature of the Messiah, as personified in Jesus Christ, provided these three things for us.
IV. The Nature of the Messiah Throughout the Old Testament, both direct and indirect references to the Messiah abound. Many of these references are prophetical and point to the ultimate dominion of Jesus Christ over all creation. However, other references describe a picture of the Messiah as the Almighty in His relationship to mankind. For example, Isaiah declared, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). This passage states that the Messiah would occupy the position of counselor to His people.
IV. The Nature of the Messiah The New Testament further reveals that the fullness of deity dwelt in the resurrected Christ (Colossians 2:9) and that the Messiah is the central reason for the existence of all creation. As the master of the universe, He holds the keys to death and hell in His hands (Revelation 1:18). When a person wholeheartedly believes this truth, he can have every need met through the Cross.
IV. The Nature of the Messiah When a believer understands his own identity in relationship to Jesus Christ, he becomes a person of destiny and purpose. He then enjoys the peace and assurance of God that transcends the temporary peace of this present world. This is precisely what Jesus was instilling in His disciples in His final assurances to them before His crucifixion. (See John 14:27.) Moreover, it is precisely what God wants His children of today’s world to understand and experience as well.
IV. The Nature of the Messiah This inner sense of identity, destiny, and purpose provides for mankind’s deepest needs and also prepares him to receive the supernatural workings of the Holy Ghost. Throughout the Book of Acts, the apostles preached the gospel with great fervency and passion throughout their world. The Spirit that dwelt in them after the Day of Pentecost was the same Spirit that anointed Jesus during the days of His flesh.
IV. The Nature of the Messiah Paul stated that the resurrected Christ was a “quickening [or life-giving] spirit” (I Corinthians 15:45), and both Paul and Peter referred to the Holy Ghost as “the Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9; I Peter 1:11). Thus, the role of the Messiah was (1) to save people from their sins, (2) to meet the innermost needs of mankind, and (3) to empower believers of all time to fulfill His will until His bodily return.
Discovering the Messiah V. Discovering the Messiah The people of Israel had been anticipating the arrival of a messiah for centuries at the time of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. The prophetical writings of the Old Testament had provided hope for mankind, even as far back as the Garden of Eden. (See Genesis 3:15.) Moses had foretold the eminent advent of a messiah. (See Deuteronomy 18:15, 19.) However, not everyone comprehended exactly how these prophecies would occur.
V. Discovering the Messiah The expectations of many people were within the context of an earthly deliverer, similar to King David, who would deliver Israel from the oppression of the Roman Empire. In fact, some have theorized that Judas Iscariot believed this and betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver in order to “force His hand” to set up His kingdom. This misguided expectation defied the true essence of who Jesus was and the kind of kingdom that He came to inaugurate.
Jesus often spoke in a way that only those who possessed true humility would understand. They realized that His ministry was not to loose Israel from Roman domination, but to unshackle mankind from spiritual bondage and destroy the works of the devil. (See Hebrews 2:14-15.) It was into the midst of such uncertainty of opinion that God sent John the Baptist, whose ministry was a catalyst to awaken people to the advent of the Messiah. Both Isaiah and Malachi prophesied that John would be the one who would prepare the way for Him. (See Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1.) Therefore, John’s words rang true with the people when he declared, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). This statement caused many people to seriously consider the possibility that Jesus might indeed be the Messiah. V. Discovering the Messiah
V. Discovering the Messiah When Jesus began His public ministry, Israel was in a state of expectancy. The ministry of John the Baptist had instilled faith in his hearers and enabled them to recognize Jesus as the possible Messiah. Moreover, his ministry also paved the way for Jesus to establish messianic identity through His own works and preaching. The discovery of the Messiah by Andrew, Philip, and the Samaritan woman at the well reflects this expectancy. (See John 1:37-43; 4:7-26.)
V. Discovering the Messiah As His ministry grew, more people thronged Him. Some came for healing, but others such as Nicodemus came to Him because the spiritual impact of His words drew them. Jesus’ teachings resonated powerfully within their hearts, and it is significant that the inherent anointing of God on His teachings effectively restructured many lives.
Embracing the Messiah VI. Embracing the Messiah Examining some scriptural examples, it is difficult for us to imagine how a few words of Jesus could so powerfully influence people to give themselves to Him so willingly and completely. Peter was one of these people. Matthew recorded an instance where Jesus called to Peter and Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Consequently, both of these men “straightway left their nets” and began following Him (Matthew 4:20).
VI. Embracing the Messiah Although an analysis of the other Gospels indicates that this was most likely not the first time that Peter met Jesus (Luke 4:38-39), it does reveal that Peter was profoundly inwardly convinced—not necessarily by rational thought, but by an impact in his spirit—that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
VI. Embracing the Messiah Based on what we read in the Gospels, Jesus had a powerful, polarizing effect on those who heard Him. Either people gravitated toward Him or they hated Him. This pattern where some accept Him as the Messiah while others walk away from Him still repeats itself today.
VI. Embracing the Messiah Just what did embracing the Messiah mean? When Jesus began His public ministry, the Scriptures consisted solely of the Old Testament. Although it was through the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus established His identity as the Messiah, it was His appearances after His resurrection that ultimately and absolutely removed all doubt from the minds of His disciples. What they had suspected as a possibility, congealed into the total conviction that Jesus was indeed “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
VI. Embracing the Messiah This realization, and all that it implied, drove people to surrender their hearts and lives to Him to a degree that they had never experienced. They restructured their priorities, replaced old values, and established a new sense of direction that affected the rest of their lives. To embrace the Messiah was to embrace the truth and to allow that truth to be the dominant guiding light by which they would live.
VI. Embracing the Messiah This conviction was supernatural, for it involved the deep workings of the Spirit within the hearts of those who embraced the words that came from Jesus’ lips. Such a person was Mary, the sister of Martha, who sat with intense longing at the feet of Jesus to hear His words (Luke 10:39).
VI. Embracing the Messiah This conviction presupposes the existence of a sense of profound need, a need met within the parameters of a simple, yet defining, encounter with Jesus. It is a sense of an inner voice saying, “This is what you have always wanted but have never realized until now.” Indeed, Jesus’ words held eternal weight. When He asked His followers if they were going to leave, Peter’s response provided a powerful evidence of this:
John 6:68-69 “Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68-69).
VI. Embracing the Messiah We are no longer restricted to the Old Testament with regard to what constitutes the Scriptures, for God has seen to it that the legacy of the original followers of Jesus lives on in what we know as the New Testament. Removed from the early believers by nearly two thousand years, the needs of mankind have not changed. Moreover, the supernatural interaction of the Spirit of the Messiah—the Holy Ghost—with the hearts of mankind continues to this day.
Reflections Albert Schweitzer eventually published his thesis, The Psychiatric Study of Jesus, in book form, and it gained global recognition as a masterpiece proving that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. In its pages, Schweitzer soundly refuted the arguments from the scholars of his day who sought to prove that Jesus was mentally deranged. Again, Scripture and logic combined to confirm Isaiah’s statement: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Schweitzer later became a world famous physician and theologian.
Reflections Some have referred to the Old Testament as the New Testament concealed, and to the New Testament as the Old Testament revealed. This is true, for while the Old Testament defined the nature of the Messiah, His identity was not known until Jesus Christ came into the world. The realization and subsequent conviction of Jesus’ true identity was the catalyst that transformed people throughout the Gospels as they embraced His teachings and incorporated them into their lives.