Read Matthew 16:16-28
Ed Stetzer, executive director of Lifeway Research, reports that during this time of year, “more people encourage belief in Santa Claus (38%) than tell the Gospel story (28%) that undergirds the whole of Christianity.” At stake, you see, are both the meaning of Christmas and the identity of Jesus.
Jesus took His own straw poll in Matthew 16. He didn’t hire Barna or Gallup. He did not ask Stetzer. Jesus simply asked His disciples, “What’s the word on the street about Me? Who do people say I am?” Their response was revealing.
Among the options were John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, and one of the Old Testament prophets. The people had clearly picked up on the spiritual nature of His ministry. He must, then, be a spiritual leader from the past . . . a sort of ghost of Christmas-past who had come back to haunt them. Unfortunately, their lack of discernment prevented them from connecting the Old Testament prophecies about the Christ with this One who was the fulfillment.
But Peter recognized it. Better said, our Heavenly Father revealed it to him, allowing him to connect the subtle Old Testament prophecies with the miracles Peter had seen and the teaching he had heard. “You are the Christ!” was Peter’s response.
Unfortunately, there were yet dimensions to Christ’s ministry that Peter had yet to grasp. He did not yet understand how critical the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus were. These were at the very core of His purpose and yet still foreign ideas to the disciples. Thankfully, though, Peter would one day understand and proclaim even those truths.
As you celebrate Christmas this year, let me invite you to consider the following key thoughts from this passage:
- Don’t draw your conclusions about Jesus based on the masses around you. Many of them will only peg the son of Mary as a spiritual teacher of some kind. As a result, Christmas will be about things other than Christ.
- Instead, personally ask yourself, “Who did the God of heaven reveal Jesus to be in the pages of Scripture?” God’s revelation invites you to make Christmas about Christ.
- Be open to learning new truths about Jesus this Christmas . . . and for the rest of your life.