November 13, 2015
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
This is a long selection of Scripture that shows An Overview Of Life, so I will break it down into smaller sections over the course of the next several blogs. But I find it interesting how this blog idea came to be. I am familiar with the incidents recorded in these fourteen verses, having read them and studied them many times. But a week ago yesterday, I was leading a Bible study with my wife and neighbor in attendance – a man who recently accepted the Lord as Savior – and I didn’t know on what in Scripture to discuss. Flipping through the Bible, I came across this same incident in Mark, and started to teach. As I taught, I suddenly saw a connection I hadn’t ever noticed before – that these incidents recorded here in these 14 verses form An Overview Of Life, a very logical progression from unbeliever to mature Christian.
Today I want to look at the first two verses, Matthew 16:13 and 14, and see how the unsaved world views the Lord Jesus Christ:
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disci-
ples, 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
Caesarea Philippi was located north of the Sea of Galilee at the southwestern foot of Mount Hermon, near the source of the Jordan River. It was named by Philip, the tetrarch, in honor of Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar – Caesarea. And to differentiate it from the other Caesarea, on the Mediterranean coast, Philip added Philippi – of Philip. Caesarea Philippi was in an area with a more Gentile population, yet with many Jews living there also. It is where Jesus “…asked His disciples, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ ”
By the time the Lord asked this question, it was nearing the end of His earthly ministry. He had been preaching, teaching, and working great miracles and healings for over three years. And people all over the land – both Jews and Gentiles – had opinions of who He was!
• “Some say John the Baptist….” Why John the Baptist? For one thing, King Herod Antipas, Herod the Great’s son, was spreading this rumor. He had beheaded John when the Baptist had challenged the king, saying, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” (Mark 6:18). Herod had ‘stolen’ his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, and married her. But now Herod – apparently, his conscience greatly bothering him for having killed John – was saying, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” (Mark 6:14). By Luke’s account, even before Herod, “…it was said by some that John had risen from the dead.” (Luke 9:7).
But there is something else at work here to lend credence in peoples’ minds that Jesus was John the Baptist. According to Joel 2:28 through 32, “the day of the LORD” would come with great signs and wonders! But before “the day of the LORD,” Elijah was to appear! (See Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 4:5, 6). Also it is said of John the Baptist in Luke 1:17, that “…he will…go before [Jesus]…in the spirit and power of Elijah….” And the Lord told His disciples in Matthew 17:11 and 12: “Elijah truly is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished.” It then says in Matthew 17:13, “…the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.”
So, although it is a bit complicated, perhaps you can see why some people were saying that Jesus was “John the Baptist.”
• “Some say…Elijah….” The explanation above helps to understand why people were thinking that the prophet Elijah had reappeared on the earth – to herald in “the day of the LORD”! After all, Elijah had never died! It is recorded in II Kings 2:11 that the prophet was bodily taken “…up by a whirlwind into heaven…[in] a chariot…with horses of fire….”
• “Some say…Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” The book of Jeremiah is first of the prophets in the Jewish canon of Scripture. So he may be mentioned as representative of all the prophets. Also, in Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses told the Israelites, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear….” This ultimately was a prophecy that pointed to Jesus Christ. But according to John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, “…in their [the Jews’] very ancient writings, a parallel is run between Moses and Jeremy [Jeremiah].” Jesus, obviously a prophet in the minds of many (see Matthew 21:11; John 9:17), was associated with Jeremiah.
So Matthew 16:13 and 14 is representative of what the unsaved world thinks about Jesus Christ:
• He is an important personage influencing our present society.
• He is a great prophet of old.
• He is a good person, a teacher, an example, an inspiration!
• He is not the very God of the universe come in the flesh – the One upon whom we must totally depend for forgiveness of our sins and right standing before the Father.
• He is not the Lord of all – the One whom we are called to obey whole-heartedly!
What is He to you?