Thesis:Jesus was adamant about keeping His identity unproclaimed until after the resurrection because of the problems that such a proclamation would create for those weak in faith.
Introduction:In our study this morning we come to a startling command from Jesus: He did not want His disciples telling anyone that He was the Christ of God. This is startling in view of the fact that He Himself taught that those who do not come to that "faith position" will die in their sins. Every person who has bought into "Christianity" acknowledges that this instruction by Jesus was "temporary", but that does not answer the real question. How can it be that He did not want His disciples announcing from the rooftops that He is the Christ of the God if, in fact, "faith" in that truth is required for salvation? This is the core focus of our study this morning. We are going to attempt to find out what was going on.
I. What Was At Stake.
A. On the surface of it, the issue is the opinion of one man regarding the identity of Jesus.
1. The text tells us that Peter answered.
a. This does not mean that the rest of the disciples shared his opinion.
1) There may be an implication by Luke's use of Peter's answer in this setting that the issue had been discussed and that there was a growing consensus among at least The Twelve that Jesus is the Christ.
a) We know from John 1:41 that Peter's initial introduction to Jesus was rooted in the claim that He was the Christ.
b) We know from Luke 9:46 that there was some pretty heated discussions about who was "the greatest" among Jesus' disciples and we know from Matthew 18:1 that the "setting" for that "greatness" was "the kingdom of God" which the disciples were actively promoting.
2) But we know a couple of other things that caution us against deciding that Peter actually spoke for The Twelve.
a) We know from Luke 22:33 that Peter was pretty impetuous about declaring his opinions (even when they were wrong).
b) We know from the Iscariot reality that he apparently did not share Peter's "belief" at least at a sufficiently deep level to keep him from using a betrayal of Jesus to enrich himself.
b. Nor does this mean that Peter's "opinion" had actually become "an article of faith" at this point.
1) Though there is a significant level of difference between Iscariot's behavior at the end of Jesus' physical life and Peter's, there is this basic fact: since both were guilty of chasing their own lusts and fears, the difference was in degree, not in kind.
2) In the Luke 22 context (22:31-32) we find that what "faith" Peter did have was in dire need of protection and he was in need of being "turned back" from his overcommitment to his own way of thinking and acting.
2. The text tells us what Peter answered.
a. His answer was that Jesus is "the Christ of the God".
b. This answer was "spot on accurate", but what did it really mean?
1) We know it was accurate because Luke 4:41 tells us that the demonic realm knew that He is the Christ and that Jesus refused to allow them to verbalize that.
2) We know that it means several things simultaneously.
a) We know that the Old Testament background for the title was the practice of the prophets to "anoint" God's choice of men to be His surrogate king over His kingdom.
b) We also know that the deeper levels of surrogacy required a better "king" than was possible from among mere men.
c) We also know that God's focus upon the issue of "rule" meant that the "rules" were to be considered inviolate.
d) Inviolate rules mean that they cannot be violated with impunity (this is the real impact of Peter's use of "the God").
e) And I made the claim last week that Peter's "opinion" is, in reality, a "touchstone" for all of reality that is the basis for all "faith".
B. On a more profound level, the issue is the ability of men to "believe".
1. It is this issue that forms most of the more contentious disagreements that exist in "visible" Christendom.
a. The reason is obvious: salvation is by "faith", a doctrine given lip service by all forms of visible Christendom.
b. But no one in this world has "resolved" this issue.
1) On the one hand we have people attempting to make "belief" easy enough for man to produce as the natural outworking of being faced with minimalist truth claims.
2) On the other hand we have people attempting to make "belief" a human impossibility by pressing the "meaning" of "the Christ" below any human level of ability to submit.
2. It is this issue that lies at the root of Jesus' adamant refusal to "let the cat out of the bag" too soon.
a. Jesus was adamant.
1) The translations here are weak: they all sidestep the contextual facts.
a) In Luke's context, the participle that begins his record of Jesus' response to Peter is consistently used in "contentious" settings where one "will" is being pitted against another.
b) In every case of Luke's use of this term, the one involved in the action is determined to enforce his opposition.
2) The combination of participle/main verb give the distinct impression that Jesus was absolutely opposed to His disciples' attempting to press His identity upon anyone.
b. The question is, "Why?".
1) The answer is given in the following material, introduced with "saying...".
2) The fact is that what was going to happen to Jesus was "too much" for the "faith" of men to embrace (Note Luke's record of 24:21 compared with 24:25) until after the entire set of events had taken place.
a) There was too much heresy already in place (the theology of Israel).
b) There was too much prior-commitment already in place (the disciples' revealed this in their fearful flight at the arrest).
C. And at the most profound level, the issue is the actual effectiveness of Jesus' entire redemptive work.
1. If men do not believe, Jesus' redemption will do them no good.
2. If men do not have an effective Redeemer, they will experience "perishing" forever without end.
II. What Are the Implications?
A. On one hand, the implications have something to say about the "raging debate" over whether or how men come to faith.
B. On the other hand, the implications have something to say about just how smug anyone can be about having "embraced the Touchstone of Eternity".