Who do you think Jesus is? It’s the most critical question you’ll ever need to answer, because your answer will decide the direction of your life.
Read the story of Jesus’ conversation about his identity here (Matthew 16:13-17:8).
Who do you think the ‘Son of Man’ is?
After Jesus performed a series of miracles, we are at a point in Jesus’ life where he was beginning to speak about his imminent suffering and death. But first, Jesus asked his followers, “Who do you think the Son of Man is?”
Any one who has studied the Prophets’ writings would know the title ‘Son of Man’ does not mean any human. It was a direct reference to Prophet Daniel’s prophecy about the coming Messiah (in Daniel chapter 7). Jesus frequently used this title to refer to himself.
The disciples quickly recalled what they heard from other people. We all are influenced by what other people say. But Jesus asked again,
“What about YOU? Who do YOU say I am?”
Peter’s answer was clear: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16).
Jesus responded to Peter’s answer by agreeing him and acknowledging the source of Peter’s understanding:
‘Blessed are you, Simon (Peter), because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’ (Matthew 16:17).
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven”
Jesus even promised to give Peter the power over hell and “keys to heaven”. Only God holds the keys to heaven!
But then, Jesus made it clear he would suffer and die. His followers were shocked. Under human understanding, God’s glory would come in great military and political power on earth, right? But that’s not God’s plan.
Peter said, “Never, Lord! This will never happen to you!” (16:22)
Peter said it out of love. But Jesus called him ‘Satan’! (16:23) and condemned him, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but only concerns of man.”
Then Jesus made another shocking claim,
“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” (16:27)
In other words, Jesus was claiming to be the final judge on God’s Judgement Day. No other human prophet would make these two claims about himself!
The Transfiguration: the Glorious Reveal of Jesus
To help his followers understand his true identity, Jesus led Peter, James and John, to a mountain to witness the Transfiguration. This was when Prophets Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus, and Jesus’ body was radiantly transformed.
What an amazing experience! But what does it mean?
The Prophets represented God’s everlasting covenant with His people (the central message of all Scriptures), a promise to deliver them from their bondage of sins. But the Prophets themselves could not save mankind. Instead, their messages pointed to God’s plan: the coming Messiah, the Anointed One God has promised who would complete the Final Sacrifice.
Then a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said,
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (17:5)
Jesus’ claims to be divine was confirmed in 4 ways:
Jesus’ own claims to be the ‘Son of Man’ in Prophet Daniel’s prophecy, his power to hold keys to heaven and hell, and power to judge all mankind on Day of Judgement
Jesus’ followers witnessing the glorious transfiguration of his body
The appearance of the ancient Prophets testified that Jesus was the one of whom the Law and Prophets spoke about.
The voice from God in heaven acknowledging Jesus as the one sent by God
All four acknowledgements are crucial to our understanding of Jesus’ identity today.
How many ‘blasphemies’ did Jesus commit?
Some religions today believe Jesus never said ‘worship me’ or ‘I am God’. Actually, he expressed it many times, in ways very clear to anyone who understood Jewish Scriptures.
Here are some examples:
Jesus said he would be the one who gives people eternal life because 'I and the Father are one.' (John 10)
Jesus said he would sit at the right hand of God in heaven (Mark 14:61-62)
Jesus said he had the power to raise dead people to life (John 11:25) - only God has this power
Jesus said he had the power to forgive sins (Luke 5:20) - Only God has this power
Jesus said he shared God’s glory even before the creation of the world (John 17:5).
Jesus said any one who believes in him would have eternal life (John 6:40) - only God could say this.
Jesus said following him is the only way we can enter heaven (see previous study).
Jesus said he would sit on God’s throne and share God’s glory in heaven (Matthew 25:31-32). Only God can sit on God’s throne.
When being questioned about his claims, Jesus quoted David’s famous proclamation in Psalm 110 (Matthew 22:44), implying that not only he was the Messiah, but also he was exalted by God to sit on the right hand of God.
Jesus used God’s holy self-identifying name ‘I AM’, the name God used to introduce Himself in Exodus 3:14, to call himself (Matthew 14:27, John 8:58 and 18:6-8).
Jesus’ claims to be equal to God were so clear that many religious leaders publicly accused him of blasphemies and threatened to sentence him to death (which they succeeded as recorded in one of the most famous trials in Roman history).
In other words, BOTH Jesus’ followers and enemies heard the same claims loud and clear. His followers believed he was saying the truth. His enemies believed he was a blasphemous false prophet. But no one from the first century ever said Jesus didn’t make these claims.
If you argue Jesus never claimed to be God, then you’ll need to dismiss all historical records from both sides and reinvent your own.
So the only remaining question is: Do you believe Jesus is who he says he is?
Your response: Pray and listen to God...
When Jesus predicted his suffering and death, Peter insisted that would never happen (Matthew 16:22). Why do you think Jesus called Peter 'Satan' (16:23) and said he did not ‘have the concerns of God but only concerns of man’?
Do you think your idea of God’s salvation and the Messiah is based on concerns of God or concerns of man? How do you know?
Both Jesus' best friends and worst enemies clearly heard Jesus claiming to be equal to God throughout his ministry years. The former believed he was saying the truth, the latter accused him of blasphemy. What do you believe? What is the basis of your choice?
Who can you share this story with?