“And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.” (Luke 9:18-22)
At first glance, the careless reader might pass over these words, thinking there is nothing extraordinary in them; but such thoughts arise from great ignorance. Peter’s confession here is truly remarkable. The more I study it, the more remarkable and blessed it appears. Consider it carefully.
This confession put Peter at odds with the rest of the world. Few were with Christ in those days. Many were against him. But Peter confessed him. When the rulers of his own nation and all the religious people he knew, the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the priests and the people, all opposed Christ, Peter confessed him. Many would gladly acknowledge him to be a prophet, even a great prophet, even a resurrected prophet. But Peter confessed him to be “The Christ of God.”
This confession of faith came from a man of tremendous faith, character, commitment and zeal. Say what you will about Peter. He had his faults, I know. But do not underrate this man. His heart was under the rule of Christ. Grace is evident in him. Peter was a true-hearted, fervent, faithful servant of our God.
Matthew gives a more complete record of Peter’s confession. Looking in the face of the Son of man, Peter said to that man, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Peter confessed that the Man Jesus is both the Christ of God and God the Son in our nature. He confessed that the despised Nazarene is the Christ, the promised Messiah, the One of whom all the prophets spoke. In a word, he confessed that the Man, Jesus, is God come to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). I do not know what all Peter knew or did not know. But he knew Christ and confessed him. Do you?
The first obvious lesson set before us is the fact that those who undertake great work for God must spend time alone with God in prayer. — “And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am (v.18)?” Never was there a man who worked so feverishly as our Lord. Never was there a preacher who was so constantly engaged in ministering to the souls of men as our Savior. Remember, this man was and is himself God. Yet, there was never a man so much engaged in private prayer to God. How frequently we read in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that our Lord Jesus Christ was alone, or alone with a few of his brethren, praying.
The pioneer missionary, William Carey, once said, “Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.” Carey would not object to me adding this: If we would attempt great things for God and expect great things from God, we must spend time alone with God praying. In all spiritual endeavors prayer is the secret to usefulness. Let us follow our Master’s example. Pray. Pray for grace to pray as we ought. Pray for one another. Pray for God’s guidance and his blessing upon our labors. Pray for the power and grace of God to attend the ministry of the Word.
Second, read verse 19 and learn that talk and speculation about Christ, his Gospel, and the things of God are snares by which Satan destroys multitudes. — “They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again.” Many a man attempts to cover his ignorance by endless chatter, speculation and debate, speaking when he ought to listen, attempting to teach when he needs to learn and offering dogmatic opinions about things of which he has no knowledge.
During the days of our Lord’s earthly ministry, if you stopped any man or woman on the street and mentioned Jesus of Nazareth, you would be sure to hear that person’s opinion about him. A multitude of opinions could be heard in any district. Some were dead sure John the Baptist had been raised from the dead. – Others were equally certain that Elijah had come back to the earth. – Others were absolutely positive that Jeremiah or one of the prophets had been reincarnated!
One thing is obvious. All were agreed that our Lord was not at all like the other preachers and religious leaders around. No one ever mistook him for a Scribe, a Pharisee, or a Sadducee! His doctrine distinguished him from all others. Read through the Gospel narratives (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) again. You will find that the masses, religious and otherwise, never denied or even challenged our Lord’s miracles, his doctrine, or even his Divine authority. They did not refuse to acknowledge him as a “Christ,” (an anointed man), or a savior. That which disturbed men in our Lord’s day and disturbs men in this day was the exclusiveness of his message. Our Lord declared himself to be, and his apostles declared him and him alone to be “the Christ,” “the Way,” “the Truth,” “the Life,” “the Door,” “the Savior,” “the Good Shepherd,” “the King,” “the Redeemer,” “the Son of the Living God.”
We should never be surprised or at all confused by the fact that men and women everywhere have very strong, outspoken opinions about Christ and his gospel, opinions as foreign to Holy Scripture as hell is to heaven.
The fact is God’s truth disturbs people. No one can sit under the ministry of the gospel and not be affected by it. If the gospel is plainly preached in unmistakable terms, it will cause people to think. If they refuse to bow to the Revelation of God, they will conger up reasons for their rebellion and unbelief, invent doctrinal theories of their own, speculate about what they judge to be right and seek to persuade others.
Multitudes spend their lives this way, ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. I meet them everywhere I go. They are always anxious to hear some new thing. They get hold of it, whirl it around, and run everywhere with it, as excited as a child with a ten cent sparkler, until it fizzles out. Then they go find another sparkler.
Multitudes know nothing more about the things of God than what they think they have learned by religious gossip. They content themselves with examining and criticizing everything they hear or read. – “Bro. Mahan is getting a little weak.” – “Bro. Nibert is too strong.” – “Bro. Bell is too emotional.” – “Bro. Fortner is too dogmatic.” – “Bro. Harding is beginning to compromise.” They approve of this and disapprove of that. They say this man is sound, or that man is unsound.
They cannot make up their own mind what is true and what is not, what is right and what is wrong. So they run from one place to another in the name of truth, wreaking havoc wherever they go, never contributing anything anywhere but confusion.
Year rolls after year, and they are in the same state, just as confused as ever and just as dogmatic, talking, criticizing, finding fault, speculating and tearing down, but never contributing. They hover like the moth around the things of God, but never settle down like the bee to feed upon them. They never lay hold on Christ. They never set their faces toward heaven. They never take up the cross. They never become followers of Christ. — We will be wise to read and heed the warnings given in Holy Scripture about such people (1 Timothy 6:3-5, 11-12, 20-21; 2 Timothy 2:16-18, 21-23; 3:1-9; Titus 3:9).
God’s salvation is personally experienced, personally embraced, personally felt, personally known, personally possessed and personally cherished. It is not something bantered about over coffee and doughnuts like politics. It is more, much more than speculation and theory. It is life everlasting in Christ. Our Lord said, “If any man will do God’s will, he shall know the doctrine whether it be of God” (John 7:17). God’s will is that we believe on his Son (1 John 3:23); and believing Christ, we are taught and learn of God. God given faith then walks before God with confident, assured knowledge regarding the things of God, for we who believe “have the mind of Christ.”
Third, true, saving faith knows and confesses that the Man Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ of God. — “He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God” (v. 20). Peter was, at times, erring and unstable, in some matters ignorant and unbelieving, far too proud and far too quick to action. But when all is said and done, Peter was a remarkable man. In the midst of unbelieving religionists, when the overwhelming tide of religious opinion was rushing the other way, Peter was confident, loyal, willing to stand alone and bold because he believed and loved his Savior.
When he declared that the man standing before him was “the Christ of God,” he was asserting plainly that that man was and is the Incarnate God, the woman’s Seed, Abraham’s Seed, David’s Son and David’s Lord, the Savior, that One of whom the Scriptures speak.
A Time for Silence
Fourth, in verse 21 we are taught that there is a time to be silent as well as a time to speak. — “And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing.” Many imagine that they must buttonhole everyone they see, shove a tract into their hand, tell them they are going to hell, and in doing so content themselves with being clear of their blood. But there is a time to be quiet as well as a time to speak. May God give us wisdom and grace to know when to speak and when to be silent.
“And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing.” — For the present time our Lord was pleased to make himself known to a few and to conceal himself from the multitudes. Contrary to popular opinion, it is still his purpose to make himself known to some and to hide himself from others. He sends the gospel to some and refuses to send it to others. He calls some, but not others, exactly as it pleases him to do so.
There is a lesson here for us all. There is a time for us to speak to men about the things of God and a time for us to be silent. As you endeavor to be faithful witnesses remember this. Ever be ready and willing to speak for Christ regardless of cost or consequence. But seek to be led of God. If he would have you speak a word for him, you will not have to force it. He will open the way and make it obvious. Let our words be words in season and fitly spoken.
Determined to Die
Fifth, we see our great Savior’s loving determination to suffer and die under the wrath of God as our sin-atoning Substitute. — “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day” (v. 22). I am sure there is much, much more in this verse than I have yet grasped. But these two things are both obvious and vital.
He died for us because he wanted to die, because he loved us. He died by his own free, voluntary will. He did not die as the helpless victim of circumstances beyond his control, but by the determination of his own heart’s love for us. — The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me! – Imagine that!
The Old Testament Scriptures must be fulfilled. The Purpose of God must be accomplished. His covenant engagements must be finished. The justice of God must be satisfied. And the salvation of his people must be obtained. Therefore, our all-glorious Redeemer declared, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day!”
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