Respond in agreement to God (Matthew 16:13-18)

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.

(Matthew 16:13-18) 

The Scripture we just read is a question posed by Jesus to His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” This is a profoundly significant question, central to the faith of those who attend church. How do you perceive Jesus? This is fundamentally what our faith is about, closely tied to our purpose in attending church, our attainment of eternal life and resurrection, and our unity with God. In the verse we just read, Jesus was referred to as “the Son of Man,” which means the son of a man. While in appearance, He is the son of a man, but Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

When the disciples answered, “Some say you are Elijah!” Elijah was a well-known prophet of old. “Some say you are John the Baptist!” He was also a prophet who was killed not long ago. “Others say you are the prophet Jeremiah, or you are one of the prophets!” Many people regarded Him as a prophet. Then Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” At that moment, Peter answered, and his response pleased Jesus so much that Jesus affirmed it by saying “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven: He then went on to say, “Upon this faith I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it!”

Who do we say Jesus is? Our answer to this question reflects our beliefs. Many people may initially come to church with various intentions, thinking that they can listen to uplifting messages, find comfort in their lives, and expand their social connections. Some may be struggling with personal issues, facing hardships or simply longing for human connection, which leads them to seek help in church.  While people come to church with diverse motivations, the ultimate and important goal is to meet God and listen attentively to His words. To achieve this, the foundational faith we must possess is to answer this question, “Who do you say Jesus is?” Peter’s response was, “Lord, You are the Christ; the Son of the living God!” Let us all declare that together.

“Lord, You are the Christ; the Son of the living God!”

Two key points are conveyed here. Firstly, “Lord, You are the Christ”. What does the term “Christ” mean? This word originates from Greek and signifies “anointed”. It means “the anointed one”. In the olden days, individuals chosen by God were anointed with oil, typically olive oil. This anointing served as a symbolic act, signifying that the person was appointed by God. Therefore, “Christ” means “the One sent by God”. When we say, “Lord You are the Christ,” we are expressing that “You are the One sent by God to carry out His work.”

We call our belief Christianity. Why do we call it Christianity? I’ll provide an explanation for why it’s called Christianity as part of general knowledge. The word “Christian” comes from “Christ.” Did we say earlier that individuals call the person God sent “Christ”? So, a person who follows Christ, who belongs to Christ, is called a “Christian.” The word “Christianity” is derived from the word “Christian.” So why do we call our faith Christianity? It means the faith in believing in Christ. It’s the faith of those who believe in the One God sent, which is Christianity. The Lord is Christ, that is He is the One sent by God!’

Let’s follow this: “Jesus is the One sent by God!”

That’s right. This is our faith. Jesus is the One whom God sent, and He carries out the tasks that God has commanded. Therefore, if we seek to know God, we must first know Jesus. By observing what Jesus did, we would know who God is – the One who gave the commands to Jesus. Imagine a child who, as instructed by their father, stands in front of the door, and the father tells the child to curse their old siblings who are outside. If the child goes out and curses their siblings as instructed, then by looking at the child’s actions, we can understand the father’s angry state, right?

Then, when God sent Jesus, what did He do? Jesus came to the world and died on the cross. That is what Jesus did. He did something that is so hard to comprehend. Why did He do such work? From that we can come to know what God is like. That is something we will be thinking further at another time.

Secondly, when the Lord asked His disciples, they responded, “You are the Son of the living God!” “The Son of the living God”. God is alive, and He is the Creator of all things, along with everything both visible and invisible. Everyone, there is no one that has been made without purpose. Therefore, nothing we see exists without purpose. Even a paper cup was made with a purpose. Nothing was made coincidentally. If anybody were to claim, “This paper cup was made by chance!” you would likely find it absurd. Furthermore, the human body is far more intricate and systematically organized than a paper cup. But, if some were to claim that the complexity of the human body arose from the random aggregation of single-celled organisms and evolved by change, it would be utterly ridiculous. Despite the impressive advancements in computers today, they still fall short of human capabilities. Similarly, even though modern cameras are highly advance, they still cannot match the speed and precision of the human eye. Consider this: If we were to place camera parts in a box and shake it, after shaking for ten thousand years, would those parts coincidentally assemble into a functional camera? Then shake it for two thousand years. Even with all the components inside, it would remain impossible for them to self-assemble into a camera through chance alone. It may be impossible to shake it for 100 thousand years. It doesn’t make sense to say that humans, much more complex than that, were created by chance.

Someone created humans. That someone is God. He is the One who gives us breath, and even now, He keeps our hearts beating. If you had to manually control your heart’s rhythm, sleeping would be quite challenging. What if your heart stopped because you couldn’t focus on it while you were asleep? However, the heart beats on its own, thanks to the strength provided by God. God is the One who made all things, the One who will eventually organize everything to an end, establish standards, and judge according to His own standards. Since He created all things, He is the Lord of all things. And Jesus is the Son of that God.

However, it is easy for people to think that the term “Son” implies inferiority to the Father, especially in Korean culture, where being a son often carries the expectation of submission and obedience to the father. However, when we refer to “the Son of God”, it does not imply that He obeys the Father because of His status as a Son. He obeyed because He is Christ. Being the Son means equality with the Father, meaning that everything owned by God the Father is also inherited by His Son. For example, let’s consider a father who possesses 100 billion dollars. Naturally, he would plan to pass on his wealth to his son. However, if he has two sons, he would divide the wealth equally between them, giving each 50 billion dollars. When someone looks at one of the sons, they would only see half of the father’s wealth. But in the case of the only son, he inherits everything of his father’s wealth. Therefore, when we see the only son with 100 billion dollars, we understand that this amount was the full inheritance from his father. In the same manner, when we say “Jesus is the Son of God,” it means that He is equal to God.

So, what Peter confessed here is this: Jesus is equal to God! He is God! However, this Jesus was sent as the servant of God and is carrying out God’s work!” This is exactly what Peter’s faith was. But who revealed this to him? It was God. This is not something that people have come up with. This is the faith we should have now. I’ll try it once more. What does Jesus say? ‘Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God!’ The one who taught us this is God. God revealed it first.

When Jesus was baptized, a voice from heaven said, “This is my son whom I love; with him I am well pleased!” These words from God represent the two main points we have been talking about. “He is my son whom I love” means He is equal to God. Then, “with Him I am well pleased” means “I am pleased with Him because He has accomplished everything, I sent Him to do!” That’s the meaning of Christ. So, when humans hear this, they are expected to respond in agreement, saying, “Yes, that is true! God’s words are true!”

This is what our faith is all about. Jesus is in the center, and God is speaking about Jesus to all the people, saying, “This Jesus is my Son!” How should people respond? They should respond in agreement. “Yes, that is true! That is true! Jesus is the Son of God!” And when God also declares, “This Jesus is Christ whom I sent!” people should harmonize with God and respond, “Yes, the Lord is Christ!” In this way, our faith revolves around aligning with God and affirming what God testifies to.

When we make friends, we tend to get closer to those who agree with us and respond positively. We tend to avoid building relationships with people who constantly disagree or respond with statements like, “Hey, I never heard what you’re saying! Hey, don’t be ridiculous! Hey, I don’t believe you!” Over time, such disagreements can lead to distance in relationships. Similarly, our faith is about how we respond to what God says. Some people may not respond at all; they neither agree nor disagree. This is true even during a sermon, where some may enthusiastically respond with “Amen!” while others remain silent. Naturally, we tend to build stronger connections with those who respond well to us. Is it right?

Similarly, when God is revealing Jesus and saying, “This is my Son whom I love,” how should you respond to that? You should respond by confessing, “Yes that’s true! Jesus is the Son of God.”  when God expresses His pleasure in Jesus, saying, “I am pleased with Him; He is the one I am pleased with,” your response should be, “Yes that is true! Jesus is Christ!”

It’s truly amazing that Jesus, the Son of God who is equal to God, came to the earth, humbled Himself as a servant, and obeyed everything God commanded. One is exalted, and the other is lesser. It’s a concept that can be difficult to understand. Think about it carefully. God could have sent an angel or a person to do His work, but He chose to send someone who is equal to Himself. And what this equal did when He was sent was to die, crucified on the cross. Why did He do this? It was to pay the price of your sins.

So, in reality, something momentous occurred 2000 years ago. When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the price for the sin that prevented us from moving forward to God, the very core our limitations. It is all because of sin that our minds are filthy and our hearts are evil, and Jesus paid the price for those sins 2000 years ago. Therefore, when you accept this, you are acknowledging, “Jesus died on the cross to atone for my sins!” Moreover, you believe that this event was made only possible by Jesus Christ, sent by God, who is greater than heaven itself.

Therefore, anyone who believes in this truth cannot help but confess, “God is love!” The God I want to introduce to you today – the God who sent Jesus – is love. He is the God who loves you. He is the God who loved us even to the point of sacrificing and putting His Son to death. So, I bless you in the name of Jesus that you will receive this love. Let us pray.

<Prayer>

God our Father, we pray that everyone present here may wholly accept Your precious love. We ask for Your guidance in receiving this love. We believe and confess that Jesus is the Son of God and the Christ sent by You, and we know that this is the way to receive it. Please grant everyone here a firm and unwavering faith in this truth. We offer this prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen!

Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center