There was one recorded dialogue between Jesus and His disciples which is, in my opinion, one of the most important passages in the whole Bible and the exchange between Jesus and the Apostle Peter at the end is absolutely critical in our understanding of what Christianity is all about.
Matthew 16:13-16 “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
All of Jesus’ teaching, miracles and ministry up to this point in time had been intentionally leading to this one question, “Who do you say that I am?” Everything hinges on this question for them, for us and for every human who ever lived. According to the Scriptures, everything in your life and everything in eternity is determined by how you answer this question. So who do you say Jesus is? Embodied in this question is the absolute scandal of Christianity. This sets the Christian faith apart from everything else.
There’s something we really need to understand about Scripture. In fact, there’s something we need to understand about reality and truth. In our culture today, we are being told that reality or truth is anything you believe it to be. But that’s just post-modernist nonsense. Truth and reality are defined as that which most certainly is. So the question is not, “Who is Jesus to you?” or “Who do you want Jesus to be?” or “Who do you make Him out to be according to your personal convenience?” The question is, “Who is Jesus in reality?”
When we interact with people outside the community of the Church, we hear a number of comments, opinions and criticisms of the Church. We often then fall into the trap of defending the Church as we try desperately to attract people into this shrinking, dying institution. Yet at no point did Jesus ever commission us to ‘go into all the world and make Church members.’ At no point does the Bible tell us that our mission is to build an organization or invite people to events. We are called, commissioned and empowered to do one thing only – to lead people to a person and to make them disciples of that person. That person is Jesus Christ. That’s why the only question we need to be asking those people in our family, in our neighbourhood, in our workplace or in the world around us is this: “Who do you say Jesus is?” It’s all about Jesus.
C.S. Lewis, the man who gave us the Narnia series, The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves, Mere Christianity, Surprised by Joy and a hundred other wonderful books, addressed this question in a BBC radio interview many years ago. Lewis suggested that there are only three logical answers to the question, “Who do you say Jesus is?” Either He is a liar, a lunatic or the Lord. This has come to be known as the ‘Lewis Trilemma,’ even though he was not the first one to put it in these terms. This trilemma actually dates back to the previous century. Now sometimes, in order to be theological, we first have to be logical. The logical assertion here is that if Jesus told the truth and was in His right mind, then He is most certainly the Lord of all Creation and the Saviour of the world. We need to forget about the relativism of our post-modern age where we are told that you can’t know truth or that everyone is right – and just think through this logically. We have to face the fact that everyone can’t be right. Logically speaking, someone is right and everyone else is wrong – or everyone is wrong. Everyone cannot be right, because there are so many conflicting views out there. So that’s something we need to realize right up front here. You can’t just say, “Well, Jesus is right – for you.” No He’s not. He’s either right or He’s not. It’s that simple.
Here is the scandal of Christianity. There’s no scandal in saying that Jesus is a Lord or Jesus is a saviour or Jesus is a prophet. The scandal of Christianity is that Jesus is the Lord, the Saviour and the only mediator between God and humanity. That’s the scandal of Christianity and to those people who identify as Christians today, let me warn you: if you deny that scandal; if you try to weasel out of that truth; if you somehow try to ignore or water down the fact that Jesus is the only Saviour of humanity; if you try to make your faith more user-friendly and less confronting to your peers and family so they like you more – then you will have denied Jesus Christ. Jesus did not say He was one among others who can grant us access to God and eternal life … Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life and no one … not one person on this planet – past, present or future – will come to Father unless they come through Me.” (John 14:6).
Of course we don’t want to be the killjoy at the dinner party; we don’t want to be mean-spirited to people around us; we don’t want to confront the power of Islam when there are so many lovely Muslim people around us today. But we are not the ones who said that Jesus is the only way to God. Jesus said it and we should never forget that. All around me today I see compromise after compromise in the Church as we white-wash our exterior so we are more acceptable. Acceptable to what? To a fallen, dysfunctional, Godless society. Why would we ever want to be more acceptable to a broken world which has rejected God?
We seem far more concerned about the opinions of the unregenerate, worldly people around us than we are about the Word of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. When I stand up in 2022, in a world gripped by post-modernism and relativism and declare, as I am now, that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life and that there is no way of being reconciled to God except through Him, I know that grates against everything the world wants you to believe and, tragically, everything a growing number of our own preachers in the Church now want you to believe. But I have no choice! If I did not tell you that Jesus is the only way to God then I would be lying and I would not deserve to be called a preacher of God’s Word. I would be the propagator of heresy, false teaching and a doctrine taught by demons – which the Apostle Paul warned us would infiltrate the Church in the last days. ( see 1 Timothy 4:1 )
So when Jesus looks me in the eye today, or any day, and asks me, “Who do you say that I am?” there is absolutely no hesitation at all in my response: “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And in saying that, I also gladly accept all the implications of Jesus being Lord of the universe. Is the same true for you, right now? Or are you still questioning how Jesus can make such an exclusive claim?
The other thing we need to understand about Jesus is that there were many, many prophecies which preceded His coming, His life and His death. So if Jesus of Nazareth is not the Messiah; if Peter’s answer was wrong and Jesus is not the Christ, the Son of the Living God, then all those prophecies from God failed. If Jesus is not the Messiah, there is no Messiah. If Jesus Christ is not Who He said He is and He has not saved us, then nobody will save us because so many of those prophecies were time-specific. The time of Jesus’ birth and the location were a specific prophecy from God. That was the time when the one and only Saviour of the world would be born. So if it’s not Jesus, we have no Saviour and the Messiah will never come.
So let me ask you again, who do you say that Jesus is? Is He everything He said He is? If you are not a Christian and you are reading this then I hope this question will haunt you and continue haunting you until you answer it. I don’t say that because I am mean or because I want you to be haunted – I say that because this is the single most important question you will ever be asked to answer in your life. The implications of your answer are life-defining – both here and now – and into eternity.