“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks you this morning.
He asked it to His disciples and to all men in the 1st century, and He asks it to you today.
“Who do you say that I am?”
“Some say Jesus was a good teacher.”
“Some say Jesus was a son of God and that we can all be similar sons of God.”
“Others say that Jesus is their Savior, but He doesn’t have to be Lord of all their lives.”
“Others still say that Jesus is my Lover or my Best Friend who is always there when I need Him.”
But Jesus says to you: “Who do you say that I am?”
If Jesus were standing right in front of you, what answer would you give Him? Since Jesus is standing right in front of you, what answer will you give Him?
WARNING: This is a two-part question, only the second part won’t be revealed until you answer the first. If you answered the question “Who is Jesus?” with something similar to “He is my Lord and my God, the Savior of the world; He is the Messiah, the Christ; He is the Second Person of the Trinity; He is God Almighty in human flesh, both God and man, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; He was crucified and resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Father where He rules,” then you may proceed to the second question, which we’ll get to in a minute.
This question, “Who is Jesus?” is the most important question a person can ask. It is to ask and answer the question: “Which god will I serve?” which is always the primary question for man, even if the answer (commonly given) is “I choose to serve myself.” (My contention is that the second most important question you can ask is “Whom will I choose to marry?”)
Who is Jesus? If He is God Almighty and your Lord, then serve Him as if He really is. And if you do not believe He is fully God and your Lord, then you will not act as if He is. His commandments, for example, become suggestions that you can feel free to reject.
If you truly believe that Jesus is your Lord and your God, then there is a second question that Jesus asks you. There are several ways of asking this second question, but the way Jesus asks it in verse 37 is, “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” In other words, “If you truly believe that I am God, are you willing to live with the implications of this belief?”
Jesus implicitly asks this question when He teaches His disciples that “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
So: “Are you willing to deny yourself, to take up your cross, and follow Jesus?”
The truth that we have such a difficult time accepting (it’s not nearly as hard to understand as it is to accept it) is that the answer to these two questions is inseparably connected. If you answered the question “Who is Jesus?” the correct way, then you are also answering the second question by saying, “And yes, since you are God, I will deny myself, take up my cross, and follow You.”Conversely, if we deny who Jesus is, we’ve also answered the second question by saying that we are not willing to deny ourselves and follow Jesus.
Those of us who willingly proclaim Jesus Christ as God are constantly struggling with the second question, though. We proclaim “Jesus Christ is Lord!” with our lips but in our lives we often deny it. We say we believe He is the Lord, but we have a hard time serving Him and obeying Him. This should not be a source of discouragement, as long as we are faithful in returning to our Lord as soon as we’ve discovered that we’ve been serving ourselves (sinning) again.
Notice how as soon as Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), Jesus begins to teach the second part of the life of a disciple. It’s not enough to say that Jesus is Lord: Jesus, your Lord, requires that you live as if He is Lord. Jesus did not teach a radical call to discipleship to His disciples before, because without a confession that Jesus is the Christ the profession of being a Christian makes no sense. In a similar way, saying that you are a Christian or disciple of Jesus Christ while denying who He is makes no sense.
Perhaps the most difficult thing for some of us to accept is that when we say we are Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, we don’t want all of Jesus. We want the kingdom and the power and the glory, but we don’t want these things the way God offers them to us. We want the kingdom without being servants; we want the power without submitting to the One who is Power; and we want the glory without the suffering that is the means to it.
Jesus the Messiah is not only the Conquering King but also the Suffering Servant. In fact, He is the Conquering King by being the Suffering Servant. Therefore, Jesus says if you want to be His disciple and truly proclaim Him as our Lord, then you must take up your cross and deny yourself.
Jesus the Christ is a cross-bearer, and if we are Christians – disciples and followers of Jesus Christ – then we too must be cross-bearers that we might also be Christ-bearers.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I acknowledge You to be my Lord, and I praise You as my Savior! Although You have asked me to take up my cross and deny myself, You have promised that Your burden is light. I ask, therefore, that You would give me Your grace and strength to desire and to do the things You are asking me to do, that You may be glorified in my life. Amen.
Point for Meditation: Spend some time today reflecting on how dedicated you have been as a disciple of Jesus Christ – how willing to deny yourself, how willing to take up the crosses He has asked you to bear, and how willing to follow Him no matter what He asks.
Resolution: I resolve to find one area in my life where Jesus the Christ is calling me to take up my cross and follow Him more faithfully. If there is an area in which God has been asking me for some time (perhaps in my daily meditations) to deny myself, I resolve to do so today.
Jesus Giving the Keys of the Kingdom to Peter – U.S. Public Domain