The gentle breeze bent the flickering fire only slightly.
The stars were bright against the clear black sky.
It was one of those pleasant evenings that seems so perfect it offers its own peaceful exhilaration.
Having eaten, the men now sat around the fire in low conversation. They spoke of what they had seen and heard – reflections on their recent travels.
They were happy and excited. They had never experienced anything even close to this.
The response of the growing crowds, the teachings, the miracles – four thousand men, not counting women and children, all fed with only seven loaves and a few fish. And there were seven full baskets left over!
What had taken place in Decapolis, near the Sea of Galilee, was incredible. Hundreds of eager people seeking to be healed came to him: the blind, the dumb, and the crippled. Others brought loved ones.
It seemed to the men a sea of suffering humanity crying out to be lifted up.
He healed them all.
He had not sought fanfare and tried to contain it but the more he told them not to tell, the more they did.
And of course, there were the adversaries too. The Pharisees badgered and challenged and lectured and fumed. They laid verbal and theological traps.
He sprung every one. The legalists never even came close to cornering him.
For the twelve, it had been one heavy head trip.
They stood amazed in his presence.
They didn’t expect it, couldn’t explain it and wouldn’t have believed it – had they not seen it with their own eyes. One of them would later write:
“We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life” (I John 1:1, NLT).
That was the impact of the experience; the affirmation of one who had been there; of one who had been with him.
And so tonight, it came.
It was the moment he had been leading them to. Everything he had said, everything he had done, had helped to prepare his close circle for tonight – this time and place of decision.
On a hillside in Caesarea Philippi.
He knew that eleven of these men would have a rendezvous with his destiny that would transform and shape the rest of their lives.
They would never be the same. The world would never be the same.
He had returned from a time of prayer alone. And while they talked among themselves, he had remained pensive. Now suddenly he broke into their private conversations for a group discussion.
Jesus looked at them intently, one by one.
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16: 13, NASB).
They were silent. They looked at each other.
Andrew spoke first.
“Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah.”
Thaddeus added: “But still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16: 14, NASB).
Jesus nodded his understanding and smiled. He knew there would always be conflicting opinions.
Then he looked at them and asked:
“But what about you? Who do you say that I am?” (verse 15, NIV).
Again there was silence.
Several of the men looked down, as if searching for the right words in a heart put on the spot.
Then Peter spoke – only for himself with such assurance. But it turned out he was also the spokesman for those who would soon join him in turning the world upside down.
He spoke with slow deliberation, as if startled by his own declaration.
“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16: 16, KJV).
Jesus asked the central question of Christmas. Peter gave the only answer possible for the follower of Jesus.
To succeeding generations – including many of our sons and daughters and our grandchildren who are skeptical of the deistic and exclusionary claims of historic Christianity in an age of tolerance and pluralism – let us press those claims without apology or compromise.
He is the Christ – and the only Christ.
He is the Son – and the only Son – of the living God.
Jesus is the Word of life, John wrote, the one who is from the beginning.
Jesus is the Savior of the world – and the only Savior.
Ask the prophets who foretold his birth.
Ask the angels who announced it – to Joseph, to Mary and to certain poor shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night.
Ask Simeon who held and blessed him in the temple.
Ask Zechariah whose loosened tongue heralded the coming Messiah.
Ask the wise men who bowed down and worshipped him as their king, though he was but a child.
Ask Handel, Watts and Wesley who wrote the immortal songs that triumphed his coming.
From beginning to end, the Bible’s theme is Jesus Christ.
His birth in Bethlehem is the uniquely orchestrated, impressively detailed, compellingly accurate, beautifully expressed and amazingly fulfilled prophecy of the Old Testament.
The true meaning of Christmas is the thoroughly persuasive validation of the truth of the Bible and the truth about Jesus Christ.
He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
What about you? Who do you say that he is?
Who do you dare to tell?
May God bless you and Your family.