The halcyon days of myths should long be past but the love for the myth still grabs our attention. When truth surrounds us and we cannot escape it then the timid, irreligious and all those who love to be disrespectfully different seek refuge in the comfort of myths.
Thus it was in Jesus' day.
The Greek civilization brought many old myths to renewed life plus they generated a whole set of new myths that has bugged all following civilisations. Today's television is littered with programmes of Greek mythology, entertaining perhaps, but wholly fictitious and a product for and of a generation taking comfort in abstract folly. Some people do not even know that films like clash of the Titans, Helen of Troy, The Odyssey, Hercules, My Fair Lady and The Hunger Games are all Greek myth.
The Greek Empire was mighty and lasted from 333 BC to 133 BC following the overthrew of the Persian empire. The Greek myths of gods, heroes and mythological creatures proliferated to such an extent that it affected religion deeply. Although the Greek gods were myths they were given names, and temples were named after them, and they had fervent worshippers. The Greek called their mythical gods by names such as Diana, Apollos, Dagon, Aphrodite, Venus, Poseidon, Zeus and Athena.
This naming of gods created a dilemma for worshippers of the God Almighty, Jehovah, because to give The Creator of the Universe a name was to reduce him to the level of these mythical Greek gods. God told Moses, when Moses asked God who shall he say send him, "And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." (Exodus 3:13-14)
It is for good, sound reasons that in Judaism the Jews refer to Jehovah God not by a name but by four letters; YHWH, pronounced in English as Yahweh. Where rampant myths and solid truth competes for acceptance day by day, then using names for your deity can be a frustrating exercise. In truth, myths have impacted the minds of people to such an extent that sometimes they are unable to distinguish truth from fiction.
Thus it was in Jesus' day.
Now we come to the core of this article and the relevant verses of Scripture are as follows:
"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:13-16)
Remember what I said earlier - myths have impacted the minds of people to such an extent that sometimes they are unable to distinguish truth from fiction - and it is clear what the mindset of the Jews were about Jesus. Jesus was the most authoritative teacher in the history of religion, he performed miracles that were the stuff of the supernatural, and his demeanour and poise under virulent attacks was extraordinarily impressive.
Jesus Christ was so astonishingly impressive that the Jews, not wanting to use the M word (Messiah), dug deep in their lexicon of Greek mythology to come up with a face-saving and rather miserable explanation. They regarded Jesus as a product of mythical reincarnation; of the cyclic return of a soul to live another life in a new body.
Note the myths:
Jesus is John the Baptist returned. John the Baptist was a powerful preacher and man of God well respected by the Jews but was imprisoned and then beheaded by the wicked King Herod (Matthew 14:10) Myths abounded about the dead coming back, sometimes for revenge and the Jews bought into that, "At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him." (Matthew 14:1-2)
Jesus is Elijah reawakened. Elijah was just one of two people in Old Testament times that never saw death, the other is Enoch (Genesis 5:24) As happened in Greek mythology, entities can be lulled into centuries of frozen inactivity, or unconsciousness, and be awakened at the whim of a god or goddess. This was the way some Jews thought about Jesus and the Apostles were aware of this.
Finally, Jesus is Jeremiah brought back. Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet and in similar vein Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37) The Jews feared and disliked Jeremiah and treated him awfully, and even had him thrown in a well, and Jesus reminded them of Jeremiah's persistence and suffered as Jeremiah did for he was, " attacked by his own brothers, beaten and put into the stocks by a priest and false prophet, imprisoned by the king, threatened with death, thrown into a cistern by Judah's officials, and opposed by a false prophet" (Wikipedia - Article on Jeremiah)
So when the Apostle Peter, either speaking for himself or as a spokesman for the whole group, said these words, "You are the Christ the Son of the living God" he was enunciating an entire concept of divinity, a concept rooted in the Holy Scriptures and one so sublime and far-reaching that all subsequent Bible students and lovers of the Word of God have attended to and endorsed these words with absolute delight.
Peter in just a few words was saying volumes and I like the way John Gill in his Bible Commentary summed this up:
"... a short, but a very full confession of faith, containing the following articles: as that there is a God, that there is but one God; that he is the living God, has life in himself, is the fountain of life to others, and by this is distinguishable from the idols of the Gentiles: that Jesus is the Christ, the Christ of God, the true Messiah, that was promised by God, prophesied of by all the prophets, from the beginning of the world, and expected by the people of God: a character that includes all his offices, of prophet, priest, and king, to which he is anointed by God; and that this Messiah was not a mere man, but a divine person, the Son of God; not by creation, as angels and men are, nor by adoption, as saints, nor by office, as magistrates, but by nature, being his own Son, his proper Son, the only begotten of the Father, of the same nature with him, being one with him, and equal to him."
The Jews did much contortion, and resorted to popular mythology, to avoid using the M word and the failure of that realisation still haunts them today. Jews, the children of promise, are still looking for that which God has so graciously already provided. In truth they have missed the boat and there will be no other coming along.
Jesus is the Messiah, not just of the Jews but of all humanity.
A messiah is one who saves, liberates and empowers.
Jesus the Messiah does all these things and more for he saves us (Romans 5:8), he sanctifies us (Hebrews 13:12), he keeps us (1 Corinthians 1:8), he mediates on our behalf (1 Timothy 2:5), he lifts us when we fall, supports us when we are weak and brings us to glory (Hebrews 2:10), he rewards our efforts (Revelation 22:12) and he gives us peace (John 14:27)
The Apostle Peter was right, and anyone can prove this to be so, for all that is required is for an individual to put his trust in Jesus Christ, truly repent and commit to God fully and the transformation takes place; manifestly, demonstrably, efficaciously.
When Zacchaeus committed to God and was saved the Bible puts it as follows, "And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:8-10)
The Messiah today is still graciously seeking and saving the lost.
If you are unconverted and spiritually seeking answers then why not give Jesus Christ the Messiah a try?
He may surprise you.
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013