The Great Confession
Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God. Mt. 16:16
Matthew 28 gives us the Great Commission. In this chapter we have the Great Confession and the Great Benediction. They are all related. Without the Great Confession and Great Benediction, there would be no Great Commission. As we will see, the commission is rooted in the confession.
It begins in Caesarea Philippi, a city located at the foot of Mount Hermon, about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. A beautiful location, it was situated at the main spring of the River Jordan, with streams and cascades of water all around. It was also a largely Gentile district. During his reign, Herod the Great built a marble temple to Caesar Augustus in his honor, and his son Phillip the tetrarch built a town there and named it Caesarea after the emperor. It was called Caesarea Philippi to distinguish it from the better known Caesarea on the coast.
However, Caesar wasn’t the only one that had been falsely worshiped at this place. Before the Romans, Greek influence led to the worship of Pan, the god of fright, and the town at that time was called Paneas in honor of Pan. In a cave on the face of a large rock escarpment near the town was a shrine to Pan. And then before this, it is possible that this town was identified as Baal-gad; Baal was the deity worshipped by the inhabitants there during OT times.
Of all places, it was here that we have the Great Confession and the Great Benediction. At a place given over for centuries to the worship of false gods, a place far away from Jerusalem and the temple, Peter announces that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It’s almost as if our Lord were making a statement: against all the false gods of the world both past and present, the church confesses that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. And against all the wrong views of Jesus by those who refuse to see him for who he is, the church confesses that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God.
And it is the church that is to make this statement. It is the church that is to hold this confession. Jesus does not tell the disciples who he is; rather, he asks them who he is. He is asking them to make the confession, and Peter speaks for the disciples then and echoes the witness of the church since then. It is the great privilege of the church to tell the world that Jesus is the Christ and all that that implies.
There will of course be opposition. The place of Peter’s confession reminds us of this. This was not a place where the true God was worshipped. For centuries it had been a place where idols held sway in the minds and affections of the people. And even then at that time it was a place of emperor worship, which would lead to the demonization of Christians who refused to worship him as traitors which would lead to much suffering and persecution. Because Christians refused to take part in a society given over to pantheism and its rituals, they would be called haters of men. And it all stemmed from their steadfast belief that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God.
But the church lives on, whereas no one worships Baal, or Pan, or Caesar anymore. We need to remember this in a day when the church is fast losing its influence over society and is beginning to find itself a minority report again. There is no reason to step back or to waver. We need to remember what it is we confess: Jesus is the Christ, whatever men may say, the Son of the living God. This being true, we need not fear whatever the future holds because we know who holds the future.
Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. He is the Christ, the one sent to redeem us from our sins. He is not a mere son of man, but the Son of the living God, and as such he is able to secure eternal redemption and eternal life for those for whom he died.