“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?"”
(Luke 9:18 ESV)
Jesus posed the above question to his disciples. And, in response, they told him that some believed him to be John the Baptist, who had been put to death by King Herod. Some believed him to be Elijah, who was expected to precede the Messiah. And others believed him to be a prophet of old, who had risen.
Each of these responses reveals that the people generally held Jesus in high honor. After all, they believed John the Baptist to be a great prophet. And Jesus himself had said that John was the greatest of the prophets.
Elijah was one of the greatest prophets from Old Testament times. And, again, with the expectation that he would come at the dawn of the messianic age, it reveals that Jesus was esteemed. The people clearly believed that he was sent by God and that he was something special.
The Old Testament prophets were also revered. Even though, when they lived and served among the people, they faced persecution, the people of Jesus’ day thought highly of them and their message. So, believing Jesus to be one of the prophets who had returned to life, they believed him to have an honored position.
However, each of these beliefs fell short of Jesus’ true identity. When Jesus addressed the disciples, asking them who they believed him to be, Peter answered rightly. He said that Jesus is the Christ of God. In other words, he believed Jesus to be the fulfillment of God’s promises. He believed Jesus to be the Savior, sent by God into the world.
Many of us make the same mistake when it comes to Jesus’ identity. Although our opinion of him is great, and although we hold him in high esteem, it falls short of his true identity. It reveals that we fail to believe in him as he’s revealed to us in Scripture.
Many of us believe that Jesus was a good teacher. In fact, we esteem him as one of the greatest teachers, if not the greatest, to ever walk the earth. We believe that his teachings are true and that they deserve to be taken to heart.
Many of us believe Jesus to be a great example. We think that he perfectly modeled what it means to love others. We think that he modeled what it means to follow God. And, for this reason, we seek to pattern our life after his own.
Others among us believe that Jesus was a prophet. We believe that he was more than a teacher. We believe him to be a man who spoke the very Word of God. We believe that he revealed God’s will to mankind.
I’m sure there are many other views to which people hold when it comes to the person of Jesus. But, like the Jews, they fall short of his true identity. Although we respect him, we don’t view him as the person Scripture proclaims him to be.
Why does this matter? It matters because we aren’t saved by our efforts to live according to his teachings. We aren’t saved by our efforts to follow his example. We aren’t saved by believing that his words are the Word of God.
We’re saved through faith that Jesus is the very Son of God who was born into this world that he might save us from our sin. We’re saved through faith that Jesus, by his death on the cross, has paid the penalty of our sin. We’re saved through faith that Jesus, by his resurrection from the grave, has defeated the power of death.
So what do you believe about Jesus? Who do you believe him to be? The answer matters more than you know.