Is Jesus Who He claimed to be? Is He the Son of God, Messiah, Divine Savior, conqueror of death, hell, and the grave, or not?
By Dr. Donald Whitchard
“And it happened as He was alone praying that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” So, they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah, and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” And He strictly warned them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s and of the holy angels.”
- Luke 9:18-26 (NKJV)
It seemed that the more Jesus did, the more questions about Him arose. Out of all the people who ever graced the pages of civilization, it has been Jesus Christ Who has aroused the most awe and ire. While there is much to discuss and examine concerning the major religions and their founders, it is when the subject of Jesus comes up that brings admiration for Him or disdain. No one has ever been neutral when it comes to what one believes about Him. The very fact that much of the world ignores Him shows that they made their decision about Him already. You would think that this is what would be a “secular” viewpoint, void of any supernatural references or beliefs. The confessing Christian would surely oppose this and be grounded in the biblical worldview concerning the person and work of Christ. You would be tragically wrong.
There are more people than you realize who come to church like clockwork whose idea of serving Jesus is showing up on time, singing a few choruses or hymns, giving Him lip service disguised as worship, knowing the basic outlines of Bible stories, and may be faithful givers, but their relationship with the LORD is non-existent and grounded in skepticism if not outright disbelief. To them, church is at best a place to be seen and a social area for mutual friends and not a sanctified place of reverence where the Scriptures are preached and taught in truth, where Jesus Christ is celebrated as Lord and Savior, and a place where sins are forgiven and lives are transformed by the power of the Spirit. Most of the fault lies in those pastors who have learned about Jesus in the seminaries but never made a real commitment to Him or His mission. They are content to comment on social issues, philosophies, self-improvement, the latest books, films, and celebrities but dismiss or neglect preaching the pure Word of God because of their own unbelief.
To false believers like these, the Lord Jesus Christ is a mere teacher who preached ideals such as love, non-violence, tolerance, and was put to death for debatable reasons, and that is where a lot of people would like to leave Him because the truth would interfere with their ideas and plans. The question remains. Is Jesus Who He claimed to be? Is He the Son of God, Messiah, Divine Savior, conqueror of death, hell, and the grave, or not? This is the question posed by the Lord Jesus after His time of prayer with the Father. How did the apostles and those with them react and respond? Several names came up that had arisen among the regions.
The first name mentioned was John the Baptist, a fiery preacher of renewal and repentance who had proclaimed the arrival of the Messiah. He had the honor of baptizing the Lord Jesus and witnessed the entirety of the Trinity participate in the ceremony (Luke 3:21-22; Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11, and John 1:29-34). John also confronted the evil of his day and was the last of the Old Testament prophets. Herod Antipas had come to believe that Jesus was John the Baptist come back from the dead.
The second name mentioned was that of the prophet Elijah (I Kings 17-2 Kings 2), who challenged the rank paganism of his day by first declaring the heavens to be shut for three years and produce no rain. He then dared the indifferent people of apostate Israel to make up their minds as to who was the real deity in the land, God or Baal. After God demonstrated His power, Elijah had all the prophets of Baal killed for their debauchery, blood sacrifices of children, and the murder of God’s spokesmen on the orders of the wicked queen Jezebel. At the conclusion of the Old Testament period, the prophet Malachi declared that God would send Elijah back to earth at the time of the end (Mal. 3:5). Jesus declared John to be the promise of Elijah fulfilled (Matt. 11:14).
The third claim was that Jesus was the representation of the entirety of the prophetic era. They proclaimed revelation and words directly from God, preached instruction and righteousness to the people, they warned kings and kingdoms of judgment and consequences for sins and assurance of divine mercy as well. They pointed nations and individuals back towards God during periods of national crises and causes for celebration, such as the building of the Temple by Solomon (1 Kings 6-9).These answers given by the apostles were good and based on God’s relationship with His people over the centuries. Now Jesus asks them who they think He is and is directed at every man, woman, and youngster who will encounter Him throughout history, either by the work of the apostles, the study of the Word, the testimony of peers, a time of prayer and conviction of spirit, or other methods by which the Sovereign God draws those who truly seek Him in spirit and in truth.
Peter, the walking contradiction of faith and folly, boldly affirms that Jesus is the Son of the Living God (Matt. 16:16, Luke 9:20). This declaration of faith should have been followed by mutual affirmation from the rest of the apostles and those that were with them. No, I am afraid that did not happen at that moment.
Peter’s definition of the “Christ of God”, as well as that of his countrymen, was different than what Jesus would present during His remaining time of ministry. The Israelites viewed the role of God’s Christ (Messiah, or “Anointed One”) as someone who would deliver them from the grip of Rome and the debauchery of the Herodian Dynasty, whom they viewed as illegitimate rulers over the land and lackeys of Caesar. One of the apostles, Simon “the Zealot” had probably killed any collaborators with Rome and probably committed a slew of violent acts against foreigners until his life was transformed by Jesus Christ. How else could Matthew, a former tax gatherer for Rome, and Simon, a revolutionary, be in the same group serving the LORD unless both their lives had been radically changed?
Jesus came to be the Deliverer of the souls of all people from not just the land of Israel, but of the entirety of the Roman Empire and beyond. To be bound and imprisoned by sin was a much harsher despot than any Caesar or his representatives. The Messianic office of Jesus freed those who would come to Him in every aspect of life. He then told His followers not to say anything about what had just been declared, for His claim would be rejected and He would be subject to the most terrible of ordeals (vv.21,22). Those who would follow the Lord Jesus from that time forward would have to leave behind any ideas of peace, safety, and bliss in terms of serving Him. They would now need to take their minds off themselves and instead carry a cross, the symbol of death and dishonor. Many Christians gladly took this and other forms of martyrdom over time for His sake and message, and it continues more so into this present world and its growing hatred of Jesus Christ and all that He represents.
The relative ease and comfort we enjoy here in America as Christians will come to an end sooner than we would like to believe. If we are serious about the faith we claim to possess, then we need to come to grips with the fact that we are not the center of all things nor the master of our lives. If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, He has sole authority over your life and all that it contains. He owns you and can do with you as He pleases, and it will not always be a pleasant undertaking. Your life belongs to Him and you need to realize that you no longer have any life outside His Sovereign will and decree. He will care for you, but not coddle you. Our purpose for living is to be a living witness to the power of Christ to change lives and situations if people will repent and put their faith in Him. We cannot have our heads in the sand or think that someone else can do the job. We have all be given gifts, talents, and voices for the glory of God and His Gospel. Now is the time to take your stand. Is Jesus Christ the LORD of your life or not? Eternity awaits your answer.
Don was born and raised in the true Cajun Country of Louisiana. He holds a Bachelors Degree in History from Louisiana College, a Masters Degree in Christian Education from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Theology from Andersonville Baptist Seminary in Georgia. Don has served as a pastor, interim pastor, high school teacher, and hospital chaplain over the past thirty years. He currently serves as a volunteer chaplain (2008-present) with St. Francis Hospital and also served as the pastor/teacher from 2013-2016 at the Gospel Rescue Mission, both of which are here in Muskogee. He was called to Meadowbrook in February 0f 2017 and began his ministry in March of that year. He has also served as President of the Muskogee Baptist Association’s Pastors Conference, which is a weekly meeting that presents speakers and ministry ideas and concepts to church leaders in the greater Muskogee area.
Don’s top priority is to see that the good news of Jesus Christ is shared with our lost and hurting world and that the people of God are taught sound doctrine and preparation for our Lord’s soon return.