English Standard Version (ESV)
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
Jesus Foretells His Death21 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Life's Most Important Question
Who is Jesus? This is, undoubtedly, life's most important question. How we answer that question determines, not only our eternity, but how we live our lives during the only existence we currently know and understand.
Obviously, as Christians we believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God. But the Bible is also historically accurate.
Is the Bible reliable?
In the case of the New Testament, we have thousands of complete manuscripts and multiple thousands more fragments available. There are more than 5,000 copies of the entire New Testament or extensive portions of it. In addition, we have several thousand more fragments or smaller portions of the New Testament. If these numbers don't seem like a lot, compared to other works of ancient history, the manuscript evidence and copies for the New Testament far outweigh manuscript evidence for other works. For instance, there are less than 700 copies of Homer's Iliad and only a handful of copies of any one work of Aristotle.3So when it comes to manuscript evidence, the New Testament definitely has numbers on its side.
It's also interesting that within the early centuries of the Christian church a number of scholars quoted the New Testament. Amazingly, they quoted the New Testament so much that every single verse of all 27 books of the New Testament is quoted by these scholars with the exception of only 11 verses, all within a few hundred years of the beginning of the Church.4 We could also add the fact that much of the New Testament was written within just a few decades of the death and resurrection of Christ. First Corinthians, for instance, dates from the 50s – only twenty years or so after the death and resurrection of Christ. This is important because 1 Corinthians 15 contains key elements of the gospel message, emphasizing the importance of Christ's resurrection, and claiming that more than 500 people had seen the risen Christ. People who would still have been alive at the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians would have been around to corroborate or criticize the claims made in the letter...
But what about manuscript evidence for the Old Testament? Space does not allow a thorough treatment here, but it is likewise incredibly accurate. Manuscripts that are part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, for instance, clearly show that our modern copies of the Old Testament are incredibly accurate.
There is archaeological evidence of the Bible, there are non-Biblical accounts that verify New Testament events or people, and scientific accuracies in the Bible as well. The fact that the Bible is theologically consistent - despite having 40 different authors (writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) over a period of about 1600 years - is also a testament to it's accuracy and reliability.
And the Bible says - repeatedly - that Jesus is God. The demons testify to this, angels testify to this, men testify to this, Jesus Himself testifies to this.
You cannot read the Bible without coming to the obvious conclusion that it claims that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God - just like Peter claims right here.
So, why do people not believe this? Why do they continue to claim that He was just a great prophet or a great man? Why did people in the NT times believe He was Elijah come back, or another prophet raised to life? They didn't deny His supernatural abilities or try to explain away the miracles. It was simply too obvious. So, they concluded, rightly, that He was not of this earth, that He was supernatural in origin. But they stopped short of the truth. Why?
I think there are several reasons.
In biblical times the fear of being excommunicated from the synagogue (an therefore, virtually all of society) would be a pretty big reason.
Today, fear of being seen as a Jesus freak would come into play as well.
But, I think the biggest thing is our pride and our desire to remain Lord of our own lives is the biggest thing holding people back from admitting that Jesus is who He says He is.
After all, how can you claim He is God and then not follow Him? How can you confirm His deity and then refuse to allow Him to be Lord of your life? How do you acknowledge Him as the Saviour who died for the sins of the whole world in order to reconcile us to a holy God - and then not allow Him to rule your heart?
It's our pride, it's our desire to be God ourselves, and it's our love of sin. People often simply choose to love the darkness more than the light. It's too high a price to pay.
This is also what makes the doctrine of election make sense to me. We are, quite simply, spiritually dead. We cannot raise ourselves to life. We can't. Only God can. He stirs our hearts to accept biblical truth. He reveals truth to sin darkened minds. He lived. He died. He rose. He extends grace. He extends mercy. He forgives. He reconciles. He justifies. He. does. everything.
Matthew says that Jesus added a statement that's not in Luke. Matthew 16:17, "Jesus answered and said to Peter, 'Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, son of Jonas, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven." You don't know this kind of truth unless it's been revealed to you by God. The reality of spiritual knowledge is it's not available to flesh and blood. "The world by wisdom knew not God." "The natural man understandeth not the things of God, they're foolishness to him, he can't know them." Flesh and blood can't know who Jesus is, that's why these people who attempt to know who Jesus is, who are doing it in their human wisdom rather than accepting the revelation of God can't find out. The disciples believed the revelation of God, they believed the disclosure of God. They believed what Jesus said and what He claimed. They believed what heaven revealed. Because of that, God opened their hearts to receive the truth. He still does that. Matthew 11:27, "No one knows the Son except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." This is the great mystery of conversion. You're called upon to believe. You can't believe unless God awakens your heart to believe. But in the marvelous conflux of those two great spiritual realities, the power of God works upon a sinner to bring that sinner to believe and at the same time God awakens the sinner so that that becomes a saving and life-giving faith.
MacArthur adds this sobering thought:
Let me just tell you this very simple truth revealed in Scripture. If you won't believe, the time will come when you can't believe. Genesis 6, "My Spirit will not always strive with men." The time...there comes a time when your rejection is hardened by God Himself, when God hides from you.
And then, immediately after the disciples pass the test, and Jesus' Messiahship is confirmed - Jesus tells them not to say anything.
Partly because it could be dangerous by inciting the crowds to make Jesus king by force.
And partly because this is judicial judgment - hiding the truth from people who have already confirmed their rejection of it.
And then He immediately told them that He was not going to be the type of Messiah they were expecting. He wasn't going to lead a revolt against Rome. He squashed that quickly. And told them that He would be rejected, He would die, and then He would rise again.
And Jesus sets on a course that would lead to His death.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 9:23-26
Very interesting, that paragraph about the number of copies of the New Testament. Excellent post.
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