There is a tremendous sense of peace in knowing that Jesus will build His Church [Matt. 16:13-28]. The glorious peace is threatened by apathy and anxiety. For example, a person who doesn’t care about advancing God’s kingdom and is apathetic toward their part of the mission, and excuses their condition by saying, “Jesus will build his Church, I don’t have to.” Conversely, the anxious person is constantly worried about the state of the local or global church, and may try to shoulder the work to advance God’s kingdom well beyond the load that Christ intended them to bear. In order to experience God’s peace, we need to know and apply the right answers to three of life’s most important questions: Who is Jesus? What will He do? What is the cost of being His disciple?
- Who is Jesus?
Caesarea Philippi is about thirty miles north of the Galilee, and is where the Jordan River begins. It was an epicenter for various ancient religions because of a large cave at the site. There the Canaanites worshipped Baal, the Greeks and Romans built temples to their gods, and Jews referred to the cave as a gateway to the underworld. It was as if Jesus deliberately took the 12 to this particular site to place Himself on trial among the various religions. Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do people say I am?” In essence, “What’s the word on the street?” There were a variety of opinions, and all were favorable and equate Jesus as a prophet. Some thought Jesus was John returned from the dead because of Jesus call to purity and repentance, some Elijah because of the miracles, some Jeremiah the weeping prophet because of Jesus’ compassion. They are endearing reviews, but sorely miss the mark. They are the wrong answers.
Who do people (i.e. the un-believing culture around you) say that Jesus is? I grew up in an observant Jewish home. In our home, Jesus was a good guy, rabbi, or sage, but not a prophet and certainly not Messiah. In an increasingly post-Christian America the cultural view of Christ is shifting. Today, your culture may view Jesus as one of many enlightened thinkers, a cosmic genie, or one of many light bearers. Culture and environment shape your view of Jesus, but don’t change the reality of who He is.
Then Jesus asked His disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” It is the most important question that any human can contemplate, and the most consequential answer of a life and eternal life. Peter responds as a spokesman for the group, that Jesus is the Christ or Anointed One, the Son of the living God, and the long-awaited Messiah who will restore man to God. This correct answer was shaped by their experiences with Jesus, His teaching, and the Scriptures, but was ultimately revealed By God. The better I know Him and who He is, the greater my sense of peace.
2. What will Jesus do?
Jesus promised to build His Church and prevail against evil opposition. Peter’s profession of Jesus as the Christ is the rock upon which Jesus has promised to build. Jesus gives assurance that His Church will not be thwarted in its mission of regaining ground taken by the enemy of men’s souls. Presently, billions of people on this planet who identify as followers of Christ authenticate the initial fulfillment of this promise.
Jesus gave His life as a perfect sacrifice as foretold by the prophets. Jesus explained to the twelve that He had to die in Jerusalem at the hands of the Jewish leaders. The prophecies of Messiah’s death had been extensively foretold and foreshadowed [Is. 53, Ps. 22, Ex. 12, Gen. 22]. His sacrifice would usher in the New Covenant and clear the way for sinful man to be reconciled to a holy God.
Jesus rose on the third day as predicted. This proved that the Father had accepted the Son’s sacrifice, confirmed Jesus identity as the Christ, encouraged the twelve (and us) that Jesus will build His Church, and more. One moral is: don’t freak-out when things don’t seem to be going well. Between the cross and the resurrection the disciples are discouraged, fearful, and suffice it so say, not on mission. When things don’t seem to be going well for the local, regional, or national church, leaders often panic. They lament, bemoan, retreat from mission, and doubt Jesus’ plans and promise(s). This undoubtedly negatively influences those that follow them.
Moral: since Jesus died and was resurrected as He and the prophets foretold, I should trust that He would build His church.
III. What is the cost of being His disciple?
Three requirements to be Jesus’ disciple are described [Matt. 16:24]:
- Deny self: yield your will to God. Purpose to submit yourself to God.
- Take up your cross: The cross is a symbol of death. We are called to die to self. Luke records that we are to take up the cross daily [Lu. 9:23]. In order to experience life with God we need to die to the pursuit of this life, the world, and our flesh.
- Follow Jesus: we are to follow Jesus not simply a creed or set of principles.
When my sons were small they would sometimes try to follow in my literal footprints. It was awkward as they looked on the ground and tried to stretch and step. Sometimes we would hold hands, especially in a crowded place or dangerous crossing, so that they would not get lost. But as they matured, and we walked together, they did not need me to hold their hand to know which way to turn, or when to stop or go.
If I’m following Him, deny self, and take up my cross, I will discern and do my part of the mission. Jesus will continue to build His Church, and He has chosen to use people for that work. When I discover who Jesus is, what He will do, and what I must do to be His disciple I experience a tremendous sense of peace. I hope that you will too.