1. What do you have to prove you are who you are?
2. What information is provided on your driver’s licenses?
3. What is the purpose for providing all of this information?
4. Has there been a time when you were misidentified?
5. In what ways can incorrect identification harm reputations and relationships?
Jesus’ interaction with His disciples in Matthew 16 shows us that Jesus thought it was necessary for His disciples to be able to boldly, and with certainty, proclaim His true identify.
This begins the last six months of Jesus’ ministry before his crucifixion. After the beheading of John the Baptist Jesus withdrew to a remote place to be alone but the crowds followed Him. He fed the 5,000, walked on the water during a storm, and healed virtually everyone who was ill in Gennesaret, challenged the religious leaders, healed the child of a Gentile mother and fed the 4,000 at the conclusion of chapter 15. These events alone should be enough for anyone to believe.
Beginning in Matthew 14, Jesus began to prepare His disciples for His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. He took the disciples to the city of Caesarea Philippi to spend time teaching them. He began by asking them an important question.
Misunderstood Identity! Read Matthew 16:13-14
1. Why might some mistakenly think Jesus was John the Baptist? Elijah? Jeremiah?
2. Why did Jesus ask this question in the first place? (To get the disciples to think about who Jesus really was.)
3. What are some of people’s opinions about Jesus today?
4. Why do they have those opinions? (There are people who misidentify Jesus as simply a prophet or a good man and others who consider him a fraud. Some may even deny that He ever lived; it’s all fiction, a manmade story! Some will even say He is the Son of God, our Savior. Obviously millions of people still don’t understand who Jesus is.)
5. Why is the knowledge of Jesus’ true identity crucial for all people?
The foundational truth is this, Jesus is the Son of God and the only way of salvation, His identity and purpose are pivotal truths of our faith. If you think Jesus is just one of many ways to God you have misunderstood the foundational truth that there is only one God and only one way to Him.
True Identity! Read Matthew 16:15-16
It is easy for people to talk about what others believe about Jesus but when it gets personal, some people respond with guesses. But that was not the case with the disciples.
1. Why was the disciples’ personal perspective on this matter of utmost importance?
2. Why should the disciples have been better equipped than others to answer the questions correctly?
Simon Peter answered as a spokesperson for the whole group. In Matt. 14:33 after Jesus had walked on the water, the disciples declared “Truly You are the Son of God.”
3. What evidence can you point to in Scripture that affirms Peter’s declaration?
4. How does Peter’s declaration emphasize Jesus’ being both fully human and fully God?
Let’s see what Jesus thought of Peter’s response.
Cornerstone Identity! Read Matthew 16:17-20
1. What is the significance of Jesus’ affirmation of Simon Peter’s declaration? (This declared truth about Jesus’ true identity demonstrated that Peter and the other disciples had at least a rudimentary understanding of Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth.)
The truth of Jesus’ identity was based on what the disciples had seen, heard, and experienced as they followed Jesus. This knowledge was not only a head-knowledge but also a heart-knowledge.
2. In Greek Peter’s name means a stone or rock that one can pick up or move (petros). In verse 18, Jesus referred to another type of rock, a petra, or bedrock. What is the bedrock of the church? (Jesus is the bedrock of His church. This church, the eternal body of believers, stands on the solid foundation of Jesus: Son of God, Son of Man, Savior, and Messiah!)
3. What influences can impact a person’s understanding of who Jesus is? (The “lens” through which we see and interpret the events in our lives has a great impact on what we believe about Jesus.)
4. Do you think the disciples understood the gravity of what Jesus was telling them?
5. Why did Jesus instruct them not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah? (It was not the right time. Later in chapter 28 they would be commanded to tell everyone and they were empowered by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost to carry out what Jesus had commanded them to do.)
Cross Identity! Read Matthew 16:21-28
1. What do you think it was like for the disciples to hear Jesus predict His suffering and death for the first time?
2. How did Peter, as their spokesman, respond?
3. Why did Jesus rebuke Peter so harshly? (In Jesus’ humanity He didn’t want to suffer and go to the cross any more than anyone else would. He wanted Peter to grasp the reality of what was coming. Peter would need to be strong, especially as leader of the disciples.)
Though the disciples must have been totally overwhelmed with all they had heard that day, Jesus wasn’t finished. There was more He had to teach them. They needed to know that those who wanted to follow Him must devote themselves to Him alone.
4. What was necessary to be a follower of Jesus? (Deny self, take up your cross and follow Him. This is what Jesus had to do Himself to follow the will of the Father! He is our example.)
5. What did Jesus mean by “your cross”? (Death to self.)
6. Why is following Jesus such a daring commitment? (Following Jesus is a life-long, daily commitment of obedience—even when life is hard, dangerous, tragic, or overwhelming. This commitment requires diligence, unwavering trust, and total surrender.)
7. What would it mean practically for you to deny self and take up your cross?
Summarize and Challenge!
1. How does your life show others that Jesus is truly the Son of God and the Savior of mankind?
Our actions demonstrate our beliefs. Our passion about the truths of God’s Word and our daily example of living in light of those truths provide a true glimpse into our faith in the one true King and Messiah.
Challenge: Take time this week to evaluate your own level of obedience to the truth that Jesus is “the Messiah, Son of the living God!”
2. How do you consistently live out your discipleship?
3. How does your life point others to Jesus Christ?