Jesus was an unusual man who lived among an unusual people whose history was filled with unusual happenings. This people began with God's promises to their first forefather before this man had children (Genesis 12:1-3). Before they became a nation, they were slaves until ten miraculous acts from God delivered them from their captivity (Exodus 7-12). In the process of deliverance, God made a path across a sea for them to cross to escape an army (Exodus 14). God provided this delivered people both leadership and law through a man He visibly supported. God gave this delivered people a land to inhabit. In that land, God provided them leadership and rescue through judges, kings, and prophets. In each age, many happenings were unusual! Many of God's leaders were unusual! Many of God's spokesmen were unusual!
Jesus was an unusual man who did unusual things. Even among a people who historically had numerous encounters with unusual happenings and unusual people, Jesus was unique! In no way was he to be taken for granted. He was so unique with such unique power that it was impossible for people to ignore him. He had to be "explained"! Who was he? What was his significance? What was his role in Israel? Everyone reacted to Jesus! No one ignored Jesus! Jesus' uniqueness demanded people take a position regarding who he was and what he did.
Once Jesus traveled with his twelve disciples in the region north of Galilee (Matthew 16:13-20). During this trip, he asked his disciples who people were saying he was? [The term "son of man" focused on Jesus' humanity. He often used this term when referring to himself.] Jesus knew people had to explain him and his acts. He knew people had to decide who or what he was. He knew that this was a common discussion when he was not present. The twelve disciples knew what people said about him. Paraphrased, Jesus asked, "How are people identifying me?"
The group responded to his question. Perhaps all of them shared what they heard others say about Jesus' identity.
Some explained Jesus by saying he was John who baptized. John was a powerful, popular figure in Israel. Earlier Jesus declared the greatness and importance of John [who was at that time in prison] (Matthew 11:2-19). Late in Jesus' life, after John's death, Jesus used John's significance to silence his enemies (Matthew 21:23-27).
Some explained Jesus by saying he was a prophet. Perhaps he was Elijah [one of the "spoken" prophets who did not record his sayings in a writing] or perhaps Jeremiah [one of the "written" prophets who did record his sayings in a writing]. Many concluded Jesus as a prophet whom God sent to speak for Him.
Interestingly, most people identified Jesus as God's spokesman. The common person associated Jesus with God, not with evil. Only some Israelite people in positions of power and authority considered Jesus a threat and thereby a person of evil origin.
Jesus then addressed a personal question to the twelve. "Who do you say I am?" Or, "When you are involved in a discussion concerning my identity, what have you personally concluded about who I am?"
While everyone answered the first question [note the "they" in verse 14], most of them were silent about the second question. Only Simon Peter answered. His answer: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
What did Peter's answer mean in typical pre-resurrection, Jewish understanding? For generations, God promised to send a unique person through and to Israel. He was known only as the Messiah [Hebrew language, "anointed"] or the Christ [Greek language, "anointed"]. Differing Israelite expectations were associated with his coming. Peter said, "You, Jesus, are that person. You have a unique relationship with God, the relationship of son rather than the relationship of prophet."
Jesus stated Peter understood this truth because God revealed it to him. He declared a blessing on Peter. He declared he came to establish his "called out" people, and not even death would prevent him from doing that. The right to "bind and loose" in the spiritual kingdom (verse 19) was not the exclusive right given only to Peter. This same right was given to all the twelve in Matthew 18:18. As disciples and apostles, they would serve as Jesus' primary spokesmen after the resurrected Jesus ascended back into heaven (see Acts 1:8).
The point in this lesson: his disciples had to have a clear understanding of his identity. His disciples had to understand that he was God's Messiah or God's Christ. He was much more than an unusual man. He was much more than a godly man. He was much more than a prophet. He was God's Christ! He was the person God promised to send. Not only Israel, but all people could be blessed through God's Christ. To Israel and all other nations, he was [and is!] Savior. To God, he was [and is!] son. In Jesus' words, he is the only access to God, the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
The point regarding discipleship: he or she who follows Jesus must clearly understand who Jesus Christ is. The confession, "I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God," was not intended to be a ritualistic statement that served as a prelude to baptism. It is the declaration, "I want to be a disciple because I know who Jesus is! He is God's Christ! He is God's Son! He has an eternal relationship with God no one else has! I can have a relationship with God because of him, and only because of him!"
A disciple knows that he or she is forgiven, is redeemed, is justified, is purified because Jesus is the Christ. A disciple knows that he or she can talk to God, live in God's presence, approach God with any concern because Jesus is the Christ. A disciple listens to Jesus, lets Jesus form his or her thinking, lets Jesus create his or her concepts, lets Jesus develop his or her behavior, lets Jesus build his or her values, lets Jesus set his or her priorities because Jesus is the Christ. The foundation of a disciple's life is the certain understanding of who Jesus is. The focus of a disciple's life is the certain understanding of what it means for Jesus to be the Christ.
Discuss the relationship between thinking [which includes attitudes and motives], behavior, concepts, relationships, and discipleship.
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 6
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