The Gospel of Matthew records that one day when Jesus was with his disciples, he asked them a question … “Who do people say that I am?” [Matt.16:13]
At that time there were a wide variety of opinions as to who Jesus was. Some thought he was John the Baptist risen from the dead, or Elijah come back in their time (remember, tradition said that he had never died but was taken up in a flaming chariot), or maybe the prophet Jeremiah. It was clear that there were differences of opinion and no one seemed sure who he really was.
Peter finally answered and said that Jesus was ‘the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of the living God.” Jesus affirmed this statement about his identity and let Peter know that he had received that thought by revelation from the Father.
Here we are over 2000 years later, and Jesus' question is still relevant – “Who do people say that I am?”
Although many people believe Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God … many others aren’t sure.
Today there are a myriad of opinions about Jesus …
- Go to www.amazon.com and search books about ‘Jesus’ and you’ll find 259,435 results.
- Go to the internet search engine www.google.com and type in ‘Jesus’ and in an instant you’ll find 179 million web pages to visit that have an opinion or comment about Jesus.
Of course, everyone thinks that they have a handle on the ‘real Jesus’. But even after 2000 years, there is clearly not a consensus about Jesus, the founder of Christianity.
In the last few decades, it seems there has been a concerted effort in our contemporary culture to ‘dethrone’ Jesus. It’s coming from everywhere – educational institutions, academic books (check out the religious section of any bookshop - other than a Christian one), works of fiction (such as The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown), news items, as well as movies and TV shows.
Unless you’re in a Christian bubble, you might have heard statements such as this from various places:
- Jesus’ tomb has been found
- Christianity’s beliefs about Jesus were copied from pagan religions
- New explanations have refuted the resurrection of Jesus
- Paul took captive the original movement of Jesus
- Jesus message was primary political and social
- There are other alternative gospels just as credible as the Four Gospels that paint a clearer picture of who Jesus really was
- The Bible’s portrait of Jesus can’t be trusted because the church tampered with the original text
Maybe Jesus was just a man – just a wisdom teacher, an apocalyptic preacher, a prophet, a social reformer, a miracle-worker, or a would-be Jewish Messiah who failed in his mission?
This can create a lot of confusion for people. It kind of makes you want to say – “Would the real Jesus please stand up!”
We'll consider this topic further over the next few days ...