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Lesson 1: Who Was Jesus? *

Introduction: When a potential client first tells me his story, I often feel like I am looking at a purse being dumped out on my desk. There are so many facts to consider, but just a few of them have any relevance to the client's legal claim. My job is to sift through the facts, and focus on which ones are legally important. Often, clients want to focus on facts that are important to them, but have little to do with winning the case. This week we look at what I consider to be the most important fact in the world: Who was Jesus? If you want to win in this life and the life hereafter, there is no more important fact upon which to focus. So, let's jump right into our study of the Bible and do that right now!

  1. Weather Thinking

    1. Read Matthew 16:1. The text says the Jewish leaders are "testing" Jesus. Is this school? Are they asking Him questions about astronomy? (The real question is: "Are you the Messiah?" They are looking for Jesus to prove He is the Messiah.)

    2. Read Matthew 16:2-4. What kind of a score would you give Jesus based on His answer? (This is not the kind of answer students generally give.)

        1. What kind of answer is this? (He says that if they had been paying attention, the answer should be obvious.)

        2. Other than not paying attention, what else creates an obstacle to their understanding of the truth? (Jesus calls them a "wicked and adulterous generation." Their sins get in the way of their understanding.)

        3. We are all "wicked." Is there no hope for us? (Jesus says that they have the wrong attitude. They are not truly looking for truth. They are looking to stay just the way they are - wicked and adulterous.)

    3. Read Matthew 16:6 and Matthew 16:12 for instructions Jesus gave to His disciples. Since the Jewish leaders had questions and not answers, why would Jesus say they were teaching something? (They were teaching that a "sign" was necessary to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. They wanted hard evidence.)

    4. Let's contemplate this series of verses just a minute. Is Jesus really saying that the answer to the question "Who are You?" is obvious? (We observe in this exchange a clash that has been going on for two thousand years. The answer is not math. It is not hard science. If you require absolute scientific proof to turn away from the sin you enjoy, then you will never turn away. On the other hand, Jesus offers logic and reason. He says that there are patterns in life that give you a good idea of what is happening. You can generally know what the weather will be based on what you see in the sky. Looking at Jesus' life and works gives us powerful (but not scientific) evidence of who He is. Considering life in general, we know that His way is the best.)

  2. Polling

    1. Read Matthew 16:13. Since they were on the topic, Jesus asks His disciples what answers they have heard from the public about the question: "Who is Jesus?" What have they heard? (John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or some other prophet.)

      1. In the abstract, are those pretty flattering answers?

      2. What is the common denominator among these answers? (They were important "God-men." The public thinks that Jesus is something special. He has a relationship with God.)

      3. Why would Jesus ask this question? Is He taking a poll? (Remember that the Jewish leaders just challenged Jesus on this point. His response was that this should be as obvious to them as predicting the weather.)

        1. Is the answer less obvious than Jesus thought it should be? (Perhaps. The disciples report that no one has the correct answer. However, the people have their "eye on the sky." They know Jesus is something special in a religious way. Predicting the weather with precision is a time-honored problem.)

  3. The Insiders

    1. Read Matthew 16:15-16. Peter has a different answer. Why? (Read Matthew 16:17. God gave Peter the correct answer.)

      1. How can the idea that God gave Peter the answer be reconciled with Jesus' statement that knowing who He is should be as obvious as reading the weather signs? (If people are looking, if they have an open mind, if they understand the things of life, they have evidence that Jesus is God. However, the final answer comes from inspiration - the conviction of God. The Holy Spirit is essential to religious conviction.)

      2. After reading this series of texts, who does Jesus say that He is? (He says He is the Son of the Living God.)

        1. In light of Jesus' answer to this question, do you still think the public's views are flattering? (No. They are searching. But, they have not yet found the truth.)

    2. Read Matthew 16:18-19. How important is the answer to Jesus' question about who He is? (The identity of Jesus as the Son of the Living God is the rock on which the church is built.)

      1. What is the "key" to heaven? (I believe the key to the Kingdom of Heaven is understanding the identity of Jesus. The church has an obligation to share with humans the knowledge that will open the Kingdom of God to them. If I ever decide I am wrong about this, I should join the Catholic Church. If Jesus is talking about a literal church, as opposed to an understanding that He is God, then the Church has the right to change the law. There is some evidence for this in the authority of the early church to annul the circumcision requirement (Acts 15)- even though it had nothing to do with the sacrificial system fulfilled by Jesus.)

    3. Read Matthew 16:20. With confusion all around, why would Jesus tell His disciples to keep this critical answer a secret? (It had to be because of the timing. Commentaries suggest that if Jesus' disciples boldly proclaimed at that time that He was the Messiah, it would have incited great opposition to Jesus' ministry.)

  4. Jesus is God

    1. Jesus was confronted with another "test" by the Jewish leaders, so He decided to return the favor. Read Matthew 22:41-42. Does that sound right to you? (Jesus was called the "Son of David" by His followers ( Matthew 21:9)because they believed the Messiah was to follow in King David's steps and conquer the surrounding nations ( Isaiah 9:6-7). Matthew shows that Jesus was literally descended from King David (Matthew 1).)

    2. Read Matthew 22:43-46. Other than stopping the Jewish leaders from diverting His attention with pesky questions, why would Jesus ask about the relationship between King David and the Messiah?

      1. What does Matthew 22:44 suggest about the nature of the Messiah? (That the Messiah sits at the right hand of God! At a minimum that means He is a heavenly figure. He has extraordinary power in heaven.)

        1. If this is obvious to us, why were the Jewish leaders stumped?

        2. Did they not understand that Jesus was God?(They looked for the Messiah to be an earthly ruler. Isaiah 9:6-7 calls Him "Mighty God," but the focus is on His government on earth. The Jewish leaders lost sight of Jesus being God. Otherwise, the answer to this question would have been obvious.)

          1. So, why did Jesus ask this question? (To show that He was God. Messiah came first and foremost to be our Savior. He came to be the Lamb of God. He came to be the Mediator of His sacrifice on our behalf in the temple in heaven(Hebrews 8).)

    3. Friend, who is Jesus? He claims to be God. If you agree, then give Him your allegiance as your God. If he is not God, he is not a "God-man," he is not a good man, he is not a prophet, and he is not a spiritual man - he is a liar and a fraud. The decision is yours, and the choice is clear and distinct for those who read the Bible and have a little common sense.

  5. Next week: The Mystery of His Deity.
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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