Who is Jesus and what does it mean to follow him?
Most Christians assume they already know who Jesus is and that the real question facing us is whether or not we are going to follow Him. But what if we have a wrong assumption about Jesus? We should always check our assumptions as there are very dangerous consequences if we are wrong. Peter found this out in Matthew 16: 13-28. He was praised for recognizing that Jesus was the Messiah. Yet, his wrong assumption of who the Messiah was earned him a severe rebuke from Jesus. Like Peter, we cannot follow Jesus properly if we bring our own assumption of who Jesus is to Bible rather than seeing what the Scriptures tells us about Jesus and His mission.
Let’s look at Matthew 16: 13-28 more carefully. If we examine where Peter went wrong maybe we can avoid making a wrong assumption.
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
We must not be too quick in our criticism of Peter. He is in a way our “spiritual father:” the New Testament equivalent of Jacob. Just as Jacob’s name was changed to Israel and was the father of God’s people, so here Simon’s name is changed to Peter and is made the founder of the Church. Just as Jacob’s new name represented their contentious relationship with God, so Peter’s personal flaws foreshadows the flaws of the Church throughout history. We should therefore remember that a criticism of Peter is very likely a telling commentary of ourselves. In this passage Jesus praises Peter for his declaration but reminds him that he did not think of this himself but that God the Father has revealed this to him.
Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”