Jesus is often compared with other religious leaders, philosophers or revolutionaries. He is seen by most people as a good man, someone who lived a good life and said good things. But is that all there is to Jesus? Was he just a good man? Who was he really?
For us Jesus is more than just a good man. But if he is more than a man, this is huge, it changes everything, and it should have a huge effect on our lives. C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia, once said that there are only 3 possibilities for what the Gospels say about who Jesus was. Either he was a liar, or he was crazy, or he was telling the truth. We all have to decide which option is right. But one thing is clear, saying he was just a good man isn’t one of the options. So who was Jesus?
Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’
They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’
‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
Peter answered, ‘God’s Messiah.’
Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’
Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.’
About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.)
While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’ When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
- How would you describe what happened in this passage?
- How did Jesus react to Peter’s answer to the questions of who he was? Why did he react like this? What did Peter mean by “the Christ of God”?
- After Peter’s answer Jesus says that he is going to be killed. Why do you think he is saying this? Why would someone want to kill Jesus?
- What do you understand from this experience on the mountain? Why did Jesus take the disciples to see this?
- Based on what we have already learnt and discussed together in this Bible study, if Jesus asked you this questions “who do you say I am”, what would your answer be?
Summary and application
- In this passage today Jesus declared himself to be the Christ, the son of God. This was the declaration that C.S. Lewis said leads to only three possible conclusions: either Jesus was crazy, or a liar or he was telling the truth. If what Jesus said is true, what does this mean for us today?
A lot of people today say they believe in Jesus. But few know or believe everything he said. Many see Jesus as a good man, an example, someone who said nice things, or maybe even a prophet. But Jesus said he was the Son of God - and in the context of the Jewish culture this meant he was putting himself at the same level as God.
If I want to follow the Jesus of the Bible I need to understand that the Bible is saying he is the ultimate life force, the essence of everything, the creator God. And if I believe that, then it should change everything, because it suddenly becomes the most important story in the history of mankind.
Jesus is not weak, he is not just an ideology, another revolutionary leader, or a great name in history. He is God, greater than anything I can imagine. That’s why I can leave everything behind and follow him with all my life.