There was this special day when Jesus discussed his identity with his followers. It must have been important for Jesus to take them 40 kilometres north of Galilee, a two-day journey to the headwaters of the Jordan River at Caesarea Philippi.
According to local legend, the cave there was the entrance to the underworld. There were two temples: one dedicated to the Greek god Pan, and another temple to honour Roman emperor. Surrounded by these competing claims for power — spiritual, religious, and political — Jesus asked them how they understood his identity: “Who do people say I am? … And what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:27, 29).
This was Peter’s great confession. The synoptic Gospels record his answer slightly differently:
Mark 8 29 Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Matt 16 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Luke 9 20Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” (NIV)
There’s no problem with the differences. Biographers regularly condense dialogue, and occasionally they expand it for emphasis or to explain the sense. The question is, Did the Gospel writers think Peter had made two significant statements about Jesus, or one?Continue reading “What does ‘Son of God’ mean (Matthew 16:16)?”
Is Jesus “a new Moses”? Would that be a helpful way to describe him?
Should we describe Jesus as “a new Moses” in the Biblical story? In the Old Testament, Moses liberated God’s people and established them as his nation. In the New, Jesus liberated humanity and established us as God’s kingdom.
The similarities are clear, so hundreds of books draw the comparison. Yet the New Testament writers seem reticent to describe Jesus this way. Why?
Calling Jesus “the Christ” is declaring him the ruler chosen by God to restore heaven’s reign to the earth.
Christology is the study of Christ. Well, that’s what it would be if it focused on the Christ bit.
These days, Christology is a branch of theology, the study of God (theos means God). Systematic theology starts with God, so Christology usually fits in as the study of the second person of the trinity. It discusses how Jesus could have two natures without his divinity messing with his humanity and vice versa. It rehearses how early Christians struggled with wrong ways to talk about God (heresies) and eventually found the right language (the creeds and Symbol of Chalcedon).
That’s all important, and I’m truly grateful for these great summaries of what we believe. But along the way, the emphasis shifted. Christology lost its focus on the Christ.
Guide dogs are amazing: a constant companion, willing to take a blind person where they want to go. The dog is trained for you personally, so it’s expensive to train one, and it really does become your own personal guide.
We make a huge mistake when we apply the same language to Jesus — calling him “my personal Saviour.” That’s a term Scripture never uses, because it could suggest that we think Jesus belongs to us, and he will take us where we want to go. That’s a completely corrupt way to understand Jesus, as if he was our personal servant and guide. And yet that attitude is widespread in the church today. We’re proclaiming that selfish arrogance each time we tell people, “Invite Jesus into your life; he’ll make it so much better for you.”
If you ever meet Queen Elizabeth, please do not invite her to be your personal queen. You’d be insulting her, as if she did not have that authority already. Please don’t invite her to sit on the throne of your heart! She already has the throne! What you must do is to acknowledge her authority, bow before her in recognition of her regal status, and follow her commands.
Imagine standing on the banks of the Jordan as Jesus surfaced, hearing a voice proclaiming, “This is my Son, the one I love, who pleases me.” What would that mean to you?
You would not have thought, “Just look at that! The Father called him the Son, and the Spirit descended on him. There must be a trinity!” That understanding didn’t come until much later. So how would a first century Jew have understood the heavenly announcement? Continue reading “Heaven’s proclamation of Jesus (Matthew 3:17)”