Sermon: Jesus, The Christ Of God, Luke 9:18-22

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 53

“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds 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. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Luke 9:18-22

“Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.’ Then he said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Peter answered, ‘The Christ of God.’ And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’” (Luke 9:18–22, ESV)


Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.


All passages of Holy Scripture, being divinely inspired, are important. But some passages of Scripture may be regarded as especially important and pivotal given what they reveal. I consider Luke 9:18-22 to be one of these especially important and pivotal texts. 

For one, the question that has been raised in Luke’s gospel over and over again is here answered with precision and clarity. Who then is this Jesus? This question has been asked by the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus’ own disciples, and even Herod the Tetrarch. And as you know, the crowds were asking this question and had their opinions concerning Jesus’ identity. But here in the text that is open before us today, the question is answered. Jesus asked his disciples, “‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Peter answered, ‘The Christ of God.’” That is the right answer, and it is filled with meaning. 

The second reason I see this text as being especially important and pivotal is that Jesus here reveals to his disciples what kind of Christ he would be and how he would accomplish our salvation. He would suffer, die, and rise again on the third day. Jesus could not have been more direct and clear about this.  After Peter’s wonderful profession, Jesus said,  “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 

And so we will consider this important and pivotal passage in two parts. Firstly, Peter’s answer to the question of Jesus, who do you say that I am? Secondly, Jesus’ clear declaration concerning his mission.


Peter Professed That Jesus Is The Christ Of God 

First, Peter’s profession.

Luke 9:18 says, “Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him.” Luke does not tell us where Jesus and the disciples were. Matthew and Mark include this story in their Gospels (Matthew 16:13-16; Mark 8:27-29) and they say that Jesus and the disciples were in the district of Caesarea Philippi. This region is far to the north of the Sea of Galilee. But Luke does tell us what Jesus was doing. He was praying. 

In the previous sermon, it was emphasized that Jesus is no ordinary man. He is the person of the eternal Son or Word of God incarnate. So, he is to true God and true man. But in this sermon, I wish to emphasize that Jesus is a true man. The Son of God assumed a true human body and a true human soul. This is why we see him grow in wisdom and stature, hunger and thirst, feel sorrow and angst – and this is why we see him pray.  Jesus was a true man. And as a true man, he communed with God the Father in prayer. He brought his desires to the Father in prayer. He submitted his human will to the will of God the Father in prayer. And he was strengthened in prayer, not according to his divine nature, but in the human nature he assumed. Jesus prayed. He taught his disciples to pray. If we are Jesus’ disciples, we should be constant in prayer, brothers, and sisters.    

After praying – and perhaps he was praying for this conversation he was about to have – he asked his disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 

Who is Jesus? May I propose to you that this is the most important question a person can ask? Who is Jesus? The way that you answer this question has eternal consequences. And people have many opinions. In the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the crowds witnessed the signs and wonders that Jesus performed and they developed theories. The disciples of Jesus reported to him that some said he was “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen” (Luke 9:19, ESV). 

John the Baptist was a powerful figure. He was regarded by many as a prophet. Many followed him. But he was imprisoned and then killed. Some surmised that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead. Perhaps some thought that John had not really died.  

Others thought Jesus was Elijah. The last two verses of Malachi, the last book in our Old Testament Scriptures, say, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Malachi 4:5–6, ESV). Some thought Jesus was Elijah. In truth, John the Baptist was Elijah – not literally, but he was the Elijah-like prophet whose job it was to prepare the way for the LORD. So the people were mistaken, but it is not difficult to understand why they would think that Jesus was Elijah. 

Jesus was performing signs and wonders. This could not be denied by the people. And so the people developed numerous theories about Jesus’ identity. Some said he was John the Baptist. Others said he was Elijah. And others thought he was one of the Old Testament prophets who had been raised from the dead. One thing is clear: the people held Jesus in very high esteem. None of these answers to the question, who is Jesus?, were correct. But it seems that everyone held Jesus in very high regard. The crowds recognized that he was special and unique. They recognized that he was, in one way or another, from God. 

In Luke 9:20 we read, “Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’” Friends, I think it is right for you to hear the voice of Jesus asking you this very question: “Who do you say that I am?” As I said a moment ago, this is the most important question a person can ask, and we must get the answer right, for the consequences are eternal. Peter answered correctly when he uttered the words, “The Christ of God”. Truly, this is the best answer. 

There are other good ways to answer the question, who is Jesus? It would not be wrong to say, Jesus is the Son of God incarnate. That is true! And that is important to say. Neither would it be wrong to say that Jesus is God’s great Prophet – the one of whom Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 18:15, saying, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—” (Deuteronomy 18:15, ESV). Who is Jesus? He is the great Prophet of God. That is true. Neither would be wrong to say that Jesus is the Priest of God’s people – the Priest who has come in the order of Melchizedek. That too is true and important to say. In fact, Hebrews 5 answers the question, who is Jesus?  in this way, and rightly so. And neither would it be wrong to say that Jesus is the King of God’s people – he is the son that was promised to king David – the is the King of God’s kingdom who will reign forever and ever, whose kingdom will have no end. Who is Jesus? He is the eternal Son (or Word) of God incarnate, the great Prophet, Priest, and King of God’s people. This true.  

I’ve said that Peter’s answer was the best answer because the terms he used encompass all of these concepts I have just mentioned (and more). Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, ‘the Christ of God’”. 

The words, “of God”, in the phrase “the Christ of God” indicate that Peter knew where Jesus had come from. He had come from God. Now, I’m not sure that Peter fully grasped the doctrine of the incarnation at this point in his life. But Matthew’s account of this story helps us to see that Peter understood a lot concerning Jesus’ origin. According to Matthew 16:16, Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” First of all, what are we to make of the discrepancies between Luke and Matthew? Well, there is no real difference. Matthew reports the longer and fuller answer of Peter. Luke’s account of what Peter said is brief, and therefore, more pointed. Mark’s account of Peter’s answer is briefer still. Mark 8:29 reads, “And [Jesus] asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ’” (Mark 8:29, ESV). Mark wished to stress the word “Christ”. Luke wished to stress the word Christ and to make it known that Peter knew that Jesus was from God. And Matthew wished to include Peter’s words about Jesus being the “Son of the living God.”

The word “Christ” in the phrase “the Christ of God” is loaded with meaning. Christ is not Jesus’ last name. It is a very special title. It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word, Messiah (see John 1:41; 4:25).  When Peter called Jesus “the Christ of God”, he meant, you are the Messiah that God had promised and that God has sent. 

Messiah (or Christ) means anointed. When used as a title Messiah (or Christ) means the anointed one. To be anointed is to be covered. And in this context, we are talking about being anointed or covered – or we might say, filled and empowered – with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Peter confessed that Jesus is the Anointed One that God had promised and sent.  

I should tell you, if you search your English translations of the Old Testament for the word “Messiah” you will not find it unless you are reading from one of the few translations that use the word in Daniel 9:25 & 26 and Psalm 2:2 & 28. In the vast majority of cases, the Hebrew word “Messiah” is translated into English as “anointed” or “anointed one”. 

In the Old Testament, you will find that many people were anointed by God. In particular, the prophets (1 Chronicles 16:22), priests (Leviticus 6:22), and kings (2 Samuel 23:1) of the Old Covenant were anointed by God to empower them to fulfill their God-given office. But in the Old Testament Scriptures, you will also find prophecies concerning an Anointed One who was to come, a great Prophet, Priest, and King, a Savior, Redeemer, and Deliverer of God’s people. So then, the Hebrew term “messiah” is used in the Scriptures generically to refer to one who was anointed of God, be it Aaron the priest, David the king, or Nathan the prophet, but it is sometimes used in a much more specific way to refer to the Anointed One, the Promised One, the Son, and the Savior of God’s people who was to come.

Take, for example, Psalm 2:1-2, which says, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed… ” (Psalm 2:1–2, ESV). As the Psalm continues it becomes clear who this Anointed one is. He is the King of verse 6: “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” He is the Son of verses 7-12: “I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:6–12, ESV). So then, the Anointed One of Pslam 2 is a great King – a King will have the nations as his heritage – a King who will rule over the whole earth – a King who will judge the nations.

Psalm 132:17 is also important. It speaks of Jerusalem when it says, “There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed” (Psalm 132:17, ESV). So, David’s son will be the Anointed One. 

Perhaps the most famous Old Testament prophecy regarding the coming of the Anointed One is Daniel 9:25-26: “Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed” (Daniel 9:25–26, ESV). There are multiple interpretations of this passage. We will not get into them now. Most Christians agree that the anointed one verse 26 who is said to be “cut off” is Jesus the Messiah. Here we have a reference to his death on the cross. 

I’ve cited these passages because they all use the term “Messiah” in a focused and particular way to refer to the Anointed One – a King – a Redeemer – who was to come. But is also important to see that all of the anointed prophets, priests, and kings of the Old Covenant order did foreshadow the Messiah and lead God’s people to live with a sense of anticipation concerning his arrival. There were many anointed prophets like Moses, but there was a Great Anointed Prophet who would one day come. There were many anointed priests who descended from Aaron, but there was a Great Anointed High Priest who would one day come in the order of Melchizedek.  And there were many anointed kings who descended from David, but there would one day arise the Anointed King – the Anointed One of Psalm 2 – who would sit on David’s throne and rule forever and ever. The point that I am here making is that the term “Messiah” does not have to be used for the concept of “Messiah” to be present. When we take into consideration the texts that explicitly speak of a coming Messiah and all of the texts that treat the anointed prophets, priests, and kings of the Old order in a typological way, it is not at all surprising that the people of God were living with a sense of anticipation concerning the soon arrival of the Messiah in the days when Jesus was born. 

As you know, the word Messiah or the Greek equivalent, Christ, is used very frequently in the New Testament. And the New Testament emphatically teaches that Jesus is the Christ (or Messiah) promised from long ago.  

Peter knew it. And he wasn’t the only one. I think it is right to assume that Peter spoke on behalf of the other disciples as well. Remember, Jesus asked the disciples, “who do [you all] say that I am?” Peter spoke up because his conviction was strong and sure, but I hear him speaking as a leader on behalf of the others too. In fact, we should remember John 1:41. There in that text we learn that Peter was not the first disciple to be called. There were two called before him. One was his brother Andrew. And Andrew, after responding to the call of Jesus to follow him, “found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter)’ (John 1:41–42, ESV). Andrew was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah before Peter was, but Peter is the one who made this marvelous profession on behalf of the Apostolic band: You, Jesus, are “the Christ of God”.

I hope you can see how pivotal this moment was in the ministry of Jesus and the life of his Apostles.  The question, who then is this?, had been answered and the disciples could then move forward with a new kind of clarity and resolve. Who is Jesus? He is not John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets of old. He is the Messiah of God, the eternal Son of God incarnate.  


Jesus Clarified That As The Christ He Would Suffer

There is something else pivotal about this passage that we are considering today, and I would like to touch upon it briefly, before concluding. In our passage, we hear Peter profess that Jesus is the Christ of God, and then we hear Jesus clarify that as the Christ, he would have to suffer.

You are I are accustomed to thinking and talking about the sufferings of Christ for the simple reason that we live a long time after his life, death, burial, and resurrection. It is not hard for us to think about Christ as one who suffered, was rejected, and crucified. But this was a difficult concept for those who lived prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection to grasp, and this included the disciples of Jesus. Many were looking for the arrival of the Messiah. Most assumed he would be a powerful and victorious King. Few understood that his power and victory would be won through suffering and death. But it’s not as if Jesus was unclear. 

Look with me at Luke 9:21: “And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one…” This sounds strange to us who live after Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, for we have been commissioned to go and tell the whole world about Jesus! But there was a time in the earlier part of Jesus’ earthly ministry when he discouraged his followers from spreading the word about him until the appropriate time. Quoting again Luke 9:21, “And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:21–22, ESV).

The sufferings of Jesus were hinted at in Luke’s Gospel when that old man, Simeon, rejoiced to see the baby Jesus in the temple, blessed Joseph and Mary, and then spoke to Mary saying, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34–35, ESV). But up to this point, not much has been said about the sufferings of Jesus. Here, in the moment his disciples confess him to be the Christ of God, Jesus makes it crystal clear that he will be a Christ who suffers, a King who conquers by laying down his life as a sacrifice for many. 

Jesus mentions his suffering for the first time here in Luke 9:22. The theme of his suffering will appear regularly in Luke’s Gospel from this point forward. Often it is emphasized that his disciples could not comprehend what he was saying. It’s as if they had a place in their minds for a Messiah, but they did not have a mental category for a suffering Messiah. 

Listen to Luke 9:44-45. Here Jesus speaks to his disciples, saying, “‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man [a favorite title for himself]  is about to be delivered into the hands of men.’ But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying” (Luke 9:44–45, ESV).

In Luke 17 Jesus speaks about the time of the end when he will return to judge and make all things new. In 17:25 he says, “But first [the Son of Man] must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” (Luke 17:25, ESV)

In Luke 18:31 we read, “And taking the twelve, [Jesus] said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.’ But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said” (Luke 18:31–34, ESV).

In Luke 22:15 we hear Christ speak to his Apostles, saying, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15, ESV).

And finally, in Luke 24 Jesus speaks to his disciples after his suffering, death, burial and resurrection, saying in verse 26, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” In verse 46, we hear Jesus say, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46–48, ESV).

Friends, Peter, and the rest of the disciples were right to confess that Jesus is the Christ of God. They had a lot to learn about him, though. For one, they had to learn what it would mean to have a Christ who would redeem them and lead them by undergoing suffering, rejection, betrayal, and even death. It would be through suffering and death that the Messiah would be raised to glory. A this point in their lives, they were unable to comprehend it. They would comprehend it only after seeing the crucified and risen Lord. 



I have three very brief questions to ask you by way of conclusion. 

Firstly, who do you say that Jesus is? Do you regard him as just another man? A great teacher? A great man, like John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the other prophets of Old? Or do you agree that he is the Christ of God? More than this I ask you, do you trust in him? Do you know him as Lord and Savior?

And if you answer the question, who is Jesus?, correctly, saying, the Christ of God, I must ask you, do you see him as your suffering servant? Do you know him as the Messiah – the Anointed Prophet, Priest, and King of God – who has entered into glory and accomplished our salvation through suffering and death? And do you love him all the more for it? 

Thirdly, if you know that Jesus is the Christ, and if you love and adore him as the one who suffered, died, and rose again for you and in your place, I ask, are you willing to suffer as a disciple of his? Notice, this is what Christ called his disciples to do in the passage that follows. Luke 9:23: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

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