Most churches have mission statements. Some are short and to the point. Others are paragraphs long or have bulletized lists. Some focus on Jesus' Sovereignty; others on social justice. Some mention the inerrancy of the Bible; others state that the Bible is a Holy Text like the Q'uron.
It is important to participate in a Bible-believing, Chris-centered church; it is important to know what the church you attend believes, on a corporate level.
But that is not what Jesus asked His disciples:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." [Matthew 16:13-16, NIV 1984]
Sure, Jesus threw out a survey question to His disciples first, maybe to gauge what the people that ate the loaves and fishes thought of him. Or maybe He was setting up a chain of questions to get His disciples -- the ones who needed to know Who in order to teach What and Why -- to look deep within themselves. The questions Jesus asked as followups were intended to take the magnifying glass off the people (the corporate entity) and focus it on the individual.
"What about you?" Jesus asked. "Who do you say I am?"
So...what about you? Do you believe that Jesus was a nice guy, who God allowed to perform miracles? That He was a prophet in a long string of prophets? That He was a Holy Man, the Messiah, but since the world has changed so much He's not exactly relevant today?
For myself, if you answered yes to any of those descriptions, I am so glad that He is not defined by you. Or me, for that matter. He is my Savior, my Messiah, my Peace. But from a purely grammatical point of view, the pronoun "my" does nothing here.
But the hinge of Peter's answer is the definite article "the." The little word, "the." It can make all the difference in the world:
"We're going to a ski slope."
"We're going to THE ski slope."
"We're going to see a race in Daytona in February."
"We're going to see THE race in Daytona in February."
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." Notice he did not say, "You're a messiah, a son of the living God." No, the definite article here is part of a title, signifying the Oneness, the Only-ness, in Peter's statement. Jesus went on in verse 17 to applaud Peter's choice of words, saying “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven."
Jesus said in John 10:27, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." Peter here was given the answer to Jesus' soul-searching question by God, for Peter knew God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
It is not enough to know about Jesus. Before His earthly body graced a manger, hundreds of prophets came before Him. His own cousin, John the Baptist, was the last prophet, the last prophet in a long line of prophets that were all designed to point the way to The Messiah, or Jesus. There have been no other prophets since John the Baptist, for Christ came, died, rose again, and ascended to heaven. And right before Jesus' triumphant return to Earth, He will send Elijah and Moses down to point the way to Jesus again. He will "reuse" these prophets because they first pointed the way to Him, and there have been no other prophets since John the Baptist. You can say the prophets came, they pointed, Jesus came -- no more prophets were needed....until the time Jesus is about to return.
Right now, before Moses and Elijah come down, we as followers of Christ are to be His Light in the World, shining in the darkness and leading people to Christ, as people guide others along a darkened path using a flashlight. After His people ascend into heaven at the Rapture, this world will fall into a dark and evil time -- the Tribulation -- when Jesus' people are with Him but not here on Earth. So Jesus will send down Moses and Elijah to reup their prophet enlistment and preach Jesus...and be killed for it. They will point the way, and thousands will accept Christ. This is the "last resort" to escape hell.
For the followers of Christ today, it is very important, just like the Disciples who were questioned by Jesus Himself, to personally answer the question "What about you?" Jesus asked. "Who do you say I am?" For if a Christian -- one who claims to know Christ AND believes AND follows Him, not just some person who says they're a Christian as if to check off a box on a census form -- cannot answer Who do they say Jesus is, using the definite article the, they need to really evaluate some basic tenants of the Christian faith.
And find a church that believes and teaches Jesus as The Messiah, the Way, the Truth, and the Life -- and focuses more on Him, instead of buzzwords like social justice, missional, and unity.
What about you? Who do you say He is?
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