To some people, this may be viewed as an archaic question, deserving no consideration. But it remains as relevant as it was in times of old. Jesus talked about building His Church. The promise was to build a Church against which the devil would not prevail and that would be one Church, instead of many:
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered 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 tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ” (Matthew 16:13-20) (ESV).
A careful analysis of the above passage of Scripture is that Peter’s answer did not come from flesh and blood. In other words, the study of Theology did not reveal this to Peter (verse 17). Therefore, what flesh and blood could not reveal, is what would sustain the Church—beginning with Peter, having been the first one to have this datum revealed to him.
But why did Jesus pose the question: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Apparently, this question reveals that Jesus knew that ordinary people identified Him as the Son of Man. They had no inkling of Him being the Christ, Son of the living God. Peter was commended for describing Him, not as the Son of Man, but the Christ, Son of the living God.
Those who saw the Son of Man in Jesus, are the ones who contrived views of Him being John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets (verse 14). Such people may have had high regards for Jesus, but could not see the Christ in Him. See [Revealing the Christ in Jesus].
Apparently, without seeing the Christ in Jesus, one cannot be a Christian. When Jesus asked the question about His identity, there had been many, who had volunteered to follow Him. Some of those were the ones coming up with divergent assumptions of who Jesus was.
It had to be His Father in heaven to reveal this to various ones. In short, without the Father revealing the Christ in Jesus, it is futile for anyone to call him/herself a Christian. While this appears simple, it could be complicated to those who the Father would not have revealed this to them.
However, we need to dwell a little bit on what could have been the reason for Jesus to strictly charge His disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ (Verse 20). Jesus was comfortable with people identifying Him as Son of Man. Yet seemingly, not comfortable with people identifying Him as the Christ, Son of the living God.
What about today? Is Jesus comfortable that ordinary people should identify Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God? What is interesting about Jesus’ ways of doing things is that everything has got to go according to the set program.
As long as not yet the time for ordinary people to get that information, only a few would know the Christ. But the majority remain confused. How then, would the Church that Jesus promised to build be identified?
Apparently, those identifying with His Church would have similar understanding as Peter. They would be clear of Jesus being the Christ, Son of the living God. The rest would only identify Jesus as the Son of Man.
The Christ that Peter identified in Jesus, could not be seen physically. If the Jews had seen the Christ in Jesus, there was no way they could have crucified Him. As far as the Jews were concerned the man they crucified was not the Christ.
Jesus, the Man that the Jews crucified left the scene. But the Christ that was in Him remained with those comprising His Church. Similarly, those people, though having the Christ in them, would not be identified by the world.
Their minds would be renewed. But the world would not know them, in the same way that they could not know Jesus. Before conversion, Paul was preoccupied with the persecution of the members of the Church, founded by Jesus.
As far as Paul was concerned, he was persecuting the unacceptable people. Those people were viewed as sons of man, just as Jesus was viewed by many, only as the Son of Man. But in reality Paul was persecuting Christ, Son of the living God.
This was the same Christ, identified by Peter in Matthew 16:16, who, ordinary people could not accurately identify. Paul met the Christ, one on one, on his way to Damascus. He was on a mission to continue with the persecution of the brethren:
“Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” and He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:3-5) (ESV).
Saul was confronted by the Son of the living God, identified by Peter in Matthew 16:16. It was at that time that Saul’s Spiritual eyes were opened. From then on, Paul could also see the Son of the living God.
Two things are of interest here. 1) The conversion of Paul has got nothing to do with Paul’s effort. 2) The targeting of Paul, does not mean that the persecution of the Church would come to an end. This agrees with what Jesus said to Peter. “…..Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you” (Matthew 16:17) (ESV)
Previously, Paul had assumed that he was persecuting the sons of man. But afterwards, he realized that he had been persecuting the Sons of the living God. Paul had viewed the people He was persecuting as sons of Man, but in reality, he had been persecuting the Christ (Acts 9:5).
This is Just as the spiritually blind people could not see Jesus, as Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13-14). Persecuting the Sons of the living God is, actually, persecuting the Christ, living in those sons of the living God. Those people comprise the Church that Jesus founded. These are the same people whom Paul would later refer to as the household of God.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22) (ESV).
There is only one thing that qualifies the sons of man to become the sons of the living God. The Spirit of truth, representing the Christ, was firstly with Jesus, the Son of Man. But, after Jesus had fulfilled what was necessary to also qualify others to become Sons of the Living God, the Church was established. The qualification would, therefore, be by the Spirit of truth that Jesus promised (John 14:15-17).
Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against that Church (Matthew 16:18). This brings us to the most formidable question: Where is that Church today? The Catholics believe they represent that Church. The Evangelicals, comprising the orthodox Christianity, believe they represent that Church.
However, there are several thousands other splinter groups, equally believing that they respectively represent the same Church. Apparently, this is what can easily be described as conglomerate confusion. All this has got nothing to do with God, who is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).
Obviously, for a person desiring to be guided by truth, there is no need to worry about the existent confusion? During His trial before Pilate, Jesus mentioned something quite revealing, to those on the side of truth:
“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.” (Emphasis mine) (John 18:37-38) (ESV).
In the Old Testament, disputable matters were settled according to the governing laws at that time: “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15) (ESV).
Paul, having been familiar with the laws of Moses, also recommended the same principle, in administering the churches under his pastorate:
“This is the third time I am coming to you. At the mouth of two witnesses or three shall every word be established. I have said beforehand, and I do say beforehand, as when I was present the second time, so now, being absent, to them that have sinned heretofore, and to all the rest, that, if I come again, I will not spare” (2 Corinthians 13:1-2) (ESV).
Apparently, according to the laws governing the Sons of Man, two or three witnesses are necessary in handling disputable matters. But this does not, necessarily, apply to the Sons of the living God, who Jesus said would listen to His voice.
Just imagine the vociferous shouts of the sons of man, before Pilate, testifying that Jesus was guilty of a crime? Those people fulfilled the requirement of two or three witnesses. According to the laws of Moses, Jesus was guilty of a crime.
But, as we now know, they were all wrong, regardless of their numbers. Jesus was not guilty. But the most fascinating thing is that Pilate asked a question for which he did not wait for Jesus to respond:
“What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him” (John 18:38).
By declaring: “I find no guilt in Him,” Pilate had seen the truth, not arrived at by the laws governing the sons of Man? Pilate appreciated the truth himself, without anyone’s influence. The truth, leading to Pilate’s conclusion that Jesus was not guilty, did not even need Jesus to assertively testify defensively, as proof of His innocence. See [Truth is outside religion and philosophy].
Similarly, those to be inducted into the promised Church, founded by Jesus in Matthew 16:18, would have not been influenced by other people’s opinions. The verdict of the majority is not necessary for such people (Luke 14:25-33).
However, a truthful person carefully listens and may find it necessary to fairly evaluate other people’s opinions. But he/she takes the responsibility on what constitutes rightness and wrongness. Like Pilate, a truthful person does not necessarily conclude matters on the basis of the views of the majority.
In Pilate’s case, while having the power to veto the decision of the majority, that could have been politically suicidal. This is why he could only wash his hands, declaring innocence of Jesus, against the verdict of the majority (Matthew 27:24).
Where, then, is the Church that Jesus founded? Considering that it takes an individual to decide without other people’s opinions, the exercise of searching is like using a search-light during day-time. There is no need to engage in that kind of exercise, as truth does not come from other people, but from Jesus.
A person in whom Christ dwells does not need the influence of other people. He/she reports directly to God. Automatically, that person has the responsibility to help others, in his environment.
For instance, if caught up among Catholics or Muslims, that person makes a difference among those people. The same applies if being a member of other denominations or religious groups.
A person with Christ is like a light that makes a difference where there is darkness. That person is not a coward—shrinking in fear of the sons of Man. He can be killed or excommunicated for being discordant, but cannot be apologetic when projecting the truth. See [Discordant reality, projected through the gospel]
Living among sinful people invites no reason to move away from them, but making a difference in that environment. Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church, until the end of the age (Matthew 13:36-43).
It may not be possible to point at a Christian Church whose practices resemble the true Church that Jesus founded. But: ….Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). Jesus’ statement here, has got nothing to do with groups, but with individuals. This agrees with what Jesus also said in John 8:51.
Actually, the major cause of failure to apply John 8:51, by most truthful Christians is group instinct. Like sheep, most truthful Christians succumb due to group instinct. Very few people are willing to stand up for what they believe to be true, as long as the other group members are not committed to it.
Remember, the behaviour of Jesus, who is our role model, had nothing to do with those in His surrounding. A true Christian is influenced by God, only. He/she takes orders directly from God, like Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, the committed ones operate like yeast. See [Influence is the method, not witnessing].
In the story of Jesus, we just saw that Governor Pilate could not defy the vociferous crowd. But chances are that in that group there were many people who approved of Jesus’ crucifixion against their own good judgment. They sheepishly had to go along with the crowd, especially under the influence of the Chief Priests and the authoritative Scribes.
Jesus charged His disciples not to tell anyone, after Peter had identified the Christ in Him (Matthew 16:20). The Church that Jesus founded cannot be obvious to everyone. That Church cannot operate openly, like the well-known corporate Churches.
I suppose Satan can never let that Church to freely operate as an organization? But the bottom line is that members of that Church are not cowards. They are, particularly, as wise as serpents, but harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). They are preoccupied with adding value to other people. They are altruistic, rather than self-centred.
They are known to be generally persecuted. Jesus mentioned that persecution would be another sign, as proving their membership to that Church (Matthew 5:10-12). Of course, such persecution has got nothing to do with deliberate invitation of persecution, in order to prove being a member of that Church.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
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