Who is Jesus

By Rev. Dr. Brent Russett – Asbury Free Methodist

August 28, 2022 – Matthew 16:13-20

            The scripture we are looking at this morning causes us to ask the question, “Who is Jesus?” It is one of the most important questions to get the right answer. For our salvation is tied to the answer to that question.

Romans 10:9–10 (NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

            Answering the question of “Who is Jesus?” by saying, “He is my Lord,” sets in motion a spiritual reality that affects our eternal destiny. Most of you who are listening to me this morning has answered the question well. You have acknowledged Jesus to be the son of God and you invited him into your life and you have pledged your life to follow him. You have answered well.

            But I have found over the years that this question comes up again and again. The way it comes up can either help us on our spiritual journey or water down our faith.

            I grew up going to Sunday School. My Sunday School teachers taught me that Jesus is my friend. They had those pictures of Jesus surrounded by kids. Jesus loves kids. They taught me that Jesus is my friend. What a wonderful thing to be taught.

            As I grew up, apologetics became important. What are the proofs that Jesus is who he said he is?

            As I grew up a little more, I saw Jesus as king. He is the ruler of all and wants to be the ruler of me.

            As I encountered suffering in my life, I saw Jesus as the suffering servant who came alongside us in our grief.

            I could go on, but you get the idea. Who Jesus is to us can change over time. Not always for the best. I have had friends who professed a love for Jesus but then turned their back and walked away from Jesus. He is neither their friend nor their lord.

            I have other friends who seem to have made Jesus into a means to an end to get what they wanted out of life.

            How about you? Who is Jesus to you? It is an important question and one that is becoming more of a discipleship issue in our day.

            Come with me to the scriptures if you have them open.

Matthew 16:13 (NIV)

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

            Jesus did ministry intentionally. So, when it says he came to the region of Caesarea Philippi and asked this question, it was intentional.

            Caesarea Philippi is located about 40 kilometres north of the sea of Galilee. It used to be an area that was heavily committed to Bael worship. At the time that Jesus was asking this question, there was a temple dedicated to the Greek god Pan. Herod had also built a temple in honour of Caesar Augustus. So, the backdrop of Jesus’ question was the worship of all kinds of other gods.

            I find that both revealing and comforting. Jesus is content to ask the question of his followers in front of a myriad of other gods. Who are people saying I am, and who do you say that I am?

            People, there will always be other gods vying for your attention. It might be the god of comfort or money or stuff or power or status. Jesus is not afraid to ask you in front of all those other gods, who do people say that I am, and who do you say that I am?

Matthew 16:14 (NIV)

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

            There were rumours amongst the people. Maybe this is John the Baptist come back from the dead. Maybe it is a prophet from the Old Testament visiting us again.

            Here is the thing, some of their answers were close. Jesus did fill the role of a prophet, but he was more than a prophet. If a close answer keeps us away from the true answer, we have a problem. Muslims would say that Jesus is a prophet. Hindus would say that Jesus is an enlightened one. The answers are true, but they do not go far enough, and because of that they fall short of the answer that will bring life change.

            I am concerned about people who claim to be Christians but their answers about who Jesus is, do not go far enough. Some say that he is a great moral teacher. He was that but he was so much more.

            Some people think of Jesus as the way to heaven after you die. He is that but eternity starts now and he is to be Lord in this life as well as the next.

            One of the trends that I am seeing is something called Christian nationalism. You see it more in the States than you do here, although I am seeing vestiges of it here. People are trying to combine being a follower of Jesus and being patriotic into one entity. Jesus gets mixed up with politics. Friends, that is really problematic for what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Matthew 16:15–16 (NIV)

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

            “Who do you say that I am?” That is the question we all have to answer. If you let your answer be informed by the gods that surround you, you will get the answer wrong. If you let your answer be informed by the culture, you will get it wrong.

            Peter had been alongside of Jesus for a couple of years now. He had heard his teaching. He had seen the miracles. He had been observing the crowd. He knew what other people were saying. But he gave a different answer than the crowd. He said you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

            I take comfort from this answer. Here’s why. When Peter said that you are the Messiah, he got the answer right. Jesus is the Messiah. But if you were to ask Peter the role of the Messiah – he would have got it wrong. He thought that Jesus as the Messiah would throw off the oppression of the Roman rulers when in reality, Jesus would deliver his people from their sin.

            That gives me hope because there are times when I think I get it, and I kind of get it, but I don’t get all of what I am supposed to get. Jesus accepts Peter’s answer. He takes us where we are at.

            Peter goes on to say, “You are the Son of the living God.” That is an amazing answer. It doesn’t seem amazing to us because we know Jesus to be the Son of God. But to the Jewish mindset of the time this was an incredibly counter-culture answer.

            Consider what John said of the Pharisees.

John 5:18 (NIV)

18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

            When Peter called Jesus “the Son of God,” he understood that he was making Jesus equal to God. That was a stretch for anyone growing up in Israel at the time. Here is how Jesus responds to Peter’s confession.

Matthew 16:17 (NIV)

17 Jesus replied, “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 says, it wasn’t a person who told you this. You understand who I am because our heavenly Father has revealed it to you. You will not get to know who Jesus is without supernatural revelation. It doesn’t matter how well I speak. Unless God shows himself, we cannot really know who he is. When you see Jesus for who he is, it is always an act of God that allows that.

            Here is what I have learned about God over the years. God wants to show himself to his people. God wants his people to really know who he is. God is more than happy to reveal who he is to those who are willing to take the time to draw close to him.

            I think that this is more important to understand than ever because I think we live in a world that has a lot of counterfeit Jesuses. The Jesus I sometimes hear about is just a reworking of Canadian values. He is nice and tolerant and would never say that anything is wrong. He is our buddy who would never ask anything of us. He is like a call-a-friend number in case you get stuck or don’t know the answer. He doesn’t affect our day-to-day life, but it is nice to have an emergency backup.

            Some see Jesus as a distant relative that you meet up with at family reunions and then go your separate ways. Others have him as insurance for the afterlife.

            These Jesuses pale in light of who he really is. You will not discover who he really is unless God reveals himself to you.

            Hear the words of Jesus from

John 14:15–21 (NIV)

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

            Jesus says, I am going to send my Spirit, and he is going to lead you into all truth. Jesus says I am going to come to you. The world will not see me but you will. You are going to realize who I am and who you are. I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you. That is so profound that we could spend a lifetime plumbing the depth of that truth. But Jesus says, if you are loving me by doing what I have commanded, you are going to see my love. I am going to show myself to those kinds of people. I am going to show myself to them.

            When you start to open yourself up to the revelation of who Jesus is, you will find him to be so much more than you thought.

            We find that he is indeed the beginning and the end of all things – the alpha and the omega. We understand that he is worthy of all honour and worship and glory and praise. We will find that he sits on the throne and rules all yet is with those who are humble in heart. You will find that he longs for you to know him like he knows you. You cannot play games with him, be he responds to anyone who is willing to take a step towards him.

            How I wish I could describe him to you. He is gracious. He took our sin upon himself. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. He is full of compassion. He sees that we are like sheep without a shepherd, and he leads us and guides us into green pastures and beside still waters.

            He is the great provider who gives us what we need. He is very present. Not only is he together with his people when we gather in his name, but he has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

In answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?”, Herbert Gabhart penned these words.

To the artist, He is the one altogether lovely.

To architects, He is the Chief Cornerstone.

To physicians, He is the Great Physician.

To preachers, He is the Word of God.

To philosophers, He is the Wisdom of God.

To the dying, He is the Resurrection and the Life.

To geologists, He is the Rock of ages.

To farmers, he is the Lord of the harvest.

To professors, He is the Master teacher.

To prodigals, he is the forgiving father.

To the lost sheep, he is the Good Shepherd.

To thirsty souls, He is the Water of life.

To the hungry, He is the Bread of life.

To Philanthropists, he is God’s unspeakable gift.

Nineteen centuries after His sojourn on earth, His shadow is larger and growing larger than ever before. No one can measure His height or His influence.


            Here is what I want you to know. He is on your side. He wants the very best for you. He wants you to know him, for in knowing him well is the promise of a life that is abundant on this side of death and a life that is beautiful on the other side of death.

            The good news in all of this is that he wants to show himself to us. He wants us to know him.

            Back to our story,

            Here is what Jesus had to say about Peter’s confession of faith

Matthew 16:18 (NIV)

18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

            Jesus is using a play on words here. You are Peter. The Greek for Peter is Petros. (Meaning small rock) And then Jesus goes on to say upon this rock, the Greek, is Petra, (Meaning Large rock) I will build my church.

            In other words, Peter, you play a role in the building of my church, but something larger than you is what my church will be founded on. I will build my church upon your confession faith, that I am Lord and I am God.

            When Jesus says, “upon this rock,” The “this,” I believe, refers back to Peter’s confession of faith. You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.

            The foundation of the church, the rock on which it is built is the confession of faith that Jesus is Lord, and He is God. If you are going to build to last – that will be your confession as well.

            Come what may – the NIV translates it hades, the KJV translates it hell – come what may – hell with all its fury, Satan with all his fiery darts, circumstances that are devastating, challenges that seem insurmountable – come what may, they shall not prevail against the one who stands on the rock of Jesus as Lord.

            In fact, something else is going to happen. The image here is not the gates of hell chasing the church down the street. The image is the church smashing the strongholds of hell. It is the image of the church breaking the cords of injustices, setting free the captives, and releasing the prisoners. It is the image of the church releasing people from their private hells into the glorious grace of God.

            But it all goes back to the questions, “who do be people say that I a?” and “who do you say that I am?” What are you going to do with Jesus? He wants to be more than to you than you can ever know.

            But a good place to start is your confession.

            This morning we are going to have a baptism. Not only is baptism a command in scripture. Not only are we imitating Jesus. He was baptized and we are following in his footsteps. But baptism is primarily a confession of faith in who Jesus is.

            When I baptize someone, I ask them two questions. Have you received Jesus as your saviour, and do you intend to follow him? In answering yes to those questions, the person who is being baptized is declaring the answer to the question – Who is Jesus? They are saying that he is my saviour and my lord.

            I hope that in your heart you will say the same thing.