Sunday, November 9, 2008

Who is Jesus Christ?

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:15, 16)

Peter stood before the Sanhedrin--the Jews' national ruling body and supreme court. There were 71 members of opposition breathing down his neck. Peter remembered. He could hear Jesus' question like it was yesterday, "But what about you...who do you say I am?" In his heart he knew. Peter had witnessed the miracles. He had heard the teachings. He had seen the violent storm reduced to still waters. He managed to tremble out the words, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." His heart knew deep down. Yet, Peter would still struggle to live up to his billing. He would deny Jesus three times. He would follow from a distance. He would shrink back in shame after the rooster confirmed what his heart still lacked--conviction. He had been a coward. And although he had been restored over a meal at the Sea of Tiberias, he could still see the look in Jesus' eyes at his third denial. He could still feel the burning in the bottom of his stomach. He couldn't forget the shame.

Peter clears his throat. He had watched these same Jewish leaders hand over Jesus to be crucified. He knew their intentions. Yet this time, it was different. This time he was no coward. This time he would speak boldly. He looked toward the crowd of rulers with courage and exclaimed, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) Not good doing. Not by keeping the law. Not by keeping a set of rules and regulations. Salvation came from no other name. Where he had once withered in shame, Peter now stood boldly. The difference? The difference was Jesus. He had observed his life. His ministry. His death. His resurrection. His ascension. He knew who Jesus was. He was the Son of the living God.

Not just a man. Not just a carpenter.

Who is Jesus? Who do you say that he is? How we answer this question impacts our eternity. This is more than a simple question. This is the question of all questions. It is the question.

Peter's proclamation to the Sanhedrin is the door that slams shut in the path of universalists. God had given us a way of reconciliation. He hadn't given us several ways. He had given us a way. And, Peter was making that point very clear to his astonished audience. No other name. No other Savior. No other god. No other hope for humanity.

It wasn't a message of condemnation. Jesus once spoke with a member of the same Jewish council, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:17) It was a message of hope for all of us. God has given us a way. In Jesus, we can have the forgiveness of sins. John 3:16 resounds in each of Peter's words. God loved the world. He gave his son. Whoever believes will not perish. Whoever believes will have everlasting life.

Next time you feel pressed to follow Jesus from a distance. Next time you are tempted to deny the Savior. Next time you choose to believe in silence. Next time you can almost hear the crows of the rooster. Remember Peter. Remember the message of hope. Remember that God loves people. Remember that Jesus is the only way to salvation.

Who do you say that he is?