By Steve Herzig, Friends of Israel.org
“But who do you say that I am?”
Jesus asked this question 2,000 years ago.
However, today it is the most critical question you will ever answer.
How would you answer it? Can you answer it correctly?
On the surface, it seems a simple question of identification.
But God cares immensely how you answer it because your eternity is at stake.
Consider the following questions.
Does God care what I think about Jesus?
Yes, because we have a problem. It all goes back to when our ancient father Adam, the first man and father of us all, was given permission by God to eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
Adam sinned. He disobeyed God and ate from the forbidden tree. His disobedience brought not only physical death to him and all of his descendants, but also spiritual death—separation from God. Although his physical death wasn’t immediate, as was his spiritual death, both were certain. The penalty of death passed to each of us as Adam’s descendants.
Anytime we fail to do as God says, we sin. God teaches in Scripture that we are responsible for our sins, and they separate us from Him. The prophet Ezekiel declared, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek 18:20). A God of justice has declared His intention to judge each of us for our sin. The prophet Isaiah said emphatically, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God” (Isa. 59:2).
God says our hearts deceive us into believing we are good before Him (Jer. 17:9). We believe our good deeds are enough to please Him. However, Isaiah tells us, “We are all like an unclean thing, and all of our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6).
Does my dilemma matter to Jesus?
God loved you enough to get Jesus involved.
Think about this: All of us would be lost except for the fact that the God of justice is also a God of love. Genesis 3, the same chapter that tells of Adam’s sin, promises a remedy to death. In Genesis 3:15, God announced that He had a plan to redeem mankind and all of creation from His judgment for sin.
The Scriptures unfold for us God’s plan to redeem us through One known as the Messiah and Savior. Messiah in New Testament Greek is translated “Christ.”
It is God who provides the way of salvation: “Behold the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save” (Isa. 59:1). “There is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior” (Isa. 45:21).
God shed the blood of animals to clothe Adam and Eve after their disobedience (Gen. 3:21). In Exodus 12 it was the blood of an unblemished lamb applied to the doorposts of each home that saved the firstborns at Passover from God’s judgment of death.
In Leviticus, God teaches, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11). God’s love provided a way to atone, “to cover over,” our sins through the blood of an unblemished sacrifice.
Did Jesus have to die for me?
Animal sacrifices, which were required yearly, were not sufficient to cover our sins forever. We needed a Redeemer—someone who could stand in our place, take the punishment we deserve, and set us free from having to pay the penalty for our sin. To be acceptable to God as the final sacrifice for our sins, our Redeemer needed to be unblemished—sinless.
God loves us so much that He provided His own Son, the Son of Promise (Isa. 9:6)—the Redeemer, the Messiah—Jesus the Christ, to take our punishment upon Himself. Seven hundred years before the Redeemer’s arrival, Isaiah said the Messiah would first come to Earth and pay our redemption price: His unblemished blood in exchange for our souls:
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. . . . But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:4-6).
The Lord told us His Messiah would die: “And after sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off” (Dan. 9:26). It was necessary that He die in order to atone for our sins, something we could not do for ourselves without suffering eternal punishment and separation from God. Rising from the grave, He proved He conquered sin and death (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
Is Jesus my only answer?
The Messiah alone was qualified to make the atonement because He was sinless. How could a man live a sinless life? The only way was for Him to be both human and divine. Psalm chapter 2 identifies the Messiah as the Lord’s Anointed (Psalm 2:2) and the Lord’s Son (Psalm 2:12). Isaiah presented God as two distinct persons: “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and His Redeemer, the LORD of Hosts” (Isa. 44:6).
In Proverbs, Agur asked a question about God: “What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if you know?” (Prov. 30:4). The identity of God’s Son is eternally important! Through the prophet Daniel, the Lord warned us that someday He will resurrect the dead to life to face their judgment, “some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2).
The way to everlasting life with God is through faith in His Son—the Redeemer, the Messiah. The way of faith is the same today as it was in the day of Abraham: belief in God and His promised Redeemer: “He believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6).
When Jesus asked one of His Jewish followers, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt.16:15), the man answered, “You are the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the living God!” (Mt.16:16). Another Jewish man identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29).
Who is Jesus to you?
Today Jesus asks the same question of you: “Who do you say that I am?” Your answer will determine whether you are raised to eternal life or eternal judgment and condemnation.
If you choose to reject Jesus Christ as the Messiah and your Savior, the Bible teaches your name will not be written in the Book of Life, resulting in everlasting judgment and eternal separation from God after you die. God calls this eternal death the “second death” (Rev. 20:11-15).
But God loves you deeply! It is His great desire that you not perish (2 Pet. 3:9). By believing that Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself to pay for your sin and that He arose from the dead because He is God, you will inherit eternal life with Him and not eternal judgment (Rom. 10:9-13, Col. 1:14).
If you believe in Jesus as your Savior, the Bible says God will no longer see you as a sinner but as His righteous child (2 Cor. 5:21); and you will enjoy a home with Him for all of eternity (Jn. 14:1-3).
Now that you know who He is, will you believe in Jesus today?