“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” It was upon this declaration of truth that Jesus said He would build His church. When you read this passage in Mt. 16 you should take notice of something very important: Jesus acknowledged the statement as true. He didn’t blush and scuff His feet in the dirt and “Aw shucks” His way out of it. He didn’t laugh it off and tell Peter not to get carried away nor did He ponder the statement as if it had never occurred to Him. None of that. Instead He proclaims, “Blessed are you Simon…because my Father has revealed this to you and this is the foundation of what it means to be joined to me!” (not the exact quote) Peter’s confession sums up the reality of who Jesus is and what He came to do. If we fail to grasp these truths, then we will come up short in our understanding of what it means to belong to Him.
So what is this blessed revelation that Peter received from the Father? First, that this guy Jesus is the Christ. This is not His last name, it’s a title, an incredibly significant title. Christ is the Greek term for the Jewish term, Messiah, both meaning “the Anointed One.” The story of all of the Bible is wrapped up in this one title. You’ll recall that in the beginning God created everything, concluding with the pinnacle of His creation, mankind. Mankind is the only thing in all of creation made in the image of God, created to have a personal relationship with Him and to share in His likeness. But that wasn’t enough for them. Adam and Eve believed the lie of the serpent and rebelled against their Creator and in so doing brought death and destruction to God’s good creation. As God is explaining the consequences of their rebellion He inserts a promise. In speaking to the serpent He says, “The seed of the woman is going to crush your head.” This “seed of the woman” is the Anointed One, the One set apart to redeem mankind and restore the creation. All of the Bible is focused on this unfolding story. As you read the Old Testament there are hints and glimpses and types, moments when you might ask, “Is this the One God promised?” Could it be Noah, the one who built the ark? Maybe Isaac, the son of the promise? Moses, the one to lead his people out of bondage? Or David, the king whose throne would last forever? These and all the others failed. They could not defeat our ultimate enemies, sin and death. Yet each one is like a piece of a puzzle, giving us a portion of the overall picture. Then Isaiah proclaims, “Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son and she will call His name Immanuel” (which means “God with us.”)
So Peter was given a revelation, a moment when all the pieces came together. He realized that standing before Him was the Anointed One, the Promised One who would set His people free. Unfortunately, in that moment, Peter could only interpret that revelation through his cultural moment. He knew the Messiah was with Him but he thought He came to set them free from the Romans. He couldn’t fathom the cross that was coming for Jesus or the depth of the sacrifice that Jesus would make for him and for all of us. He could not envision the resurrection. He could not see, in that moment, that Jesus the Messiah, the Christ would soon defeat the power of sin and death through His own death and resurrection! He didn’t understand that Jesus came to redeem us, to buy us back from our old master, to crush the head of the serpent and make for Himself a new nation, a new race of people and to set into motion the restoration of all creation.
So here is a question for you and me. Do we believe, in the depth of our being, that Jesus is the Christ? Do we believe that He is the One sent from God to redeem and restore all things? To answer that we need to look and see where our functional trust is located. What is my ultimate hope for my family? Is it their safety, prosperity and personal happiness? Is my primary concern for my kids and grandkids to get a good education and a good job and to marry the right kind of person or am I aware that my family and I are part of the greater story of what God is doing through Jesus to restore creation to Himself? Am I caught up in the American dream or caught up in His plan and purpose for the redemption of every tribe, nation and language? Am I mentally dividing my community into people like “us” and people like “them” or am I able to see each person as someone created in the image of God and in need of His restoring grace (especially me)? Am I looking to an election to fix what is broken in our country or am I working to introduce broken people to the only true King, the One to whom ultimately every knee will bow? My answers will let me know if I truly believe Jesus is The Christ or if I just think that’s His last name.
P.S. We’ll look at what it means that Jesus is “the Son of the Living God” next time. You can also view a somewhat expanded version of this article on our website “colquittbaptist.org”