As I read the book of Matthew I realize Matthew was a really detailed individual.  He was after all a tax collector.  Matthew documented many instances of Jesus healing someone.  From all of the many unhealthy and demon-possessed during Jesus' first visit, it's a wonder the life expectancy was not even lower.  He also recorded the most, if not all, of Jesus' parables. 

Jesus was, as usual, right on time with His ministry.  He came, healed, rebuked demons, raised the dead and even came back from the dead Himself.  Father God confirmed Jesus twice - once at Jesus' Baptism (Matthew 3:16-17) and once at Jesus' Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9).  The people got a glimpse of who Jesus really was at the "feeding of the five thousand" and John 6:14-15 reports they wanted to make Him king - "'Surely this is the prophet who is to come into the world.'  Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself."

The Disciples witnessed Jesus' life and ministry for the busy three years that it spanned.  They saw all these healings, rebukings, and raisings.  Peter, James, and John got to see and hear Father God approve and confirm Jesus as His Son and Messiah.  They were there when the people had the notion to forcefully make Jesus king because the crowd received an inkling of who Jesus was.

Then in the Matthew account (Matthew 16), the journey got to the point where Jesus was tested by the Pharisees about His divine identity with a demand for a sign.  Jesus gave them a stern response, cracking down on their ability to decipher the weather patterns of the day, but not the signs of the times written in Scripture.  Jesus proceeds to warn His Disciples about the "yeast" of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  It is after this warning and after Jesus and His Disciples get away to the region of Caesarea Philippi that some important questions surface and one in particular echoes through time still today.

"...he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?'"

Notice that Jesus is curious first about what the masses believe about Him.

"They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'"

The Disciples response proves they had been listening to the crowd and all the comments about Jesus through the weeks and months by His side.  How could one not hear the opinions of others with the wonders Jesus performed.  But now, Jesus makes it personal.

"'But what about you,' he asked.  Who do you say I am?'"

In case you are wondering the rest of the story (nod to Paul Harvey, again), Peter, enlightened, said, "'You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.'".

Now, fast-forward to today.  With all that has happened in the world and in your life, you have come to be reading this and The Question is now before you.  Jesus asks you, "Who do YOU say I am?"

I love what C.S. Lewis has to say about this.  It is one of my favorite quotes from anybody on anything.

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a good moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." 

If you are someone who believes in a Supreme Being, I encourage you to ask yourself - Why do I believe in God?  Especially if you are a believer in Christ Jesus, I still encourage you to ask - Why do I believe in God?  

Is your belief in God solely based on your family's heritage?  It is great that many have a Christian heritage.  I have a Christian heritage.  However, the Christian heritage is the foundation and the environment that led me to belief in Christ.  I still evaluated life and options, but in the end the truth was Jesus and His benefits have no comparison and competition.  I gave my life to Christ for His leadership, guidance, and direction when I was 9 years old (1979).  I have never desired to reject Him since.  I have had my moments of weakness, but those moments were my fault.  He is, has been, and always will be Faithful.  Again, my faith in Jesus Christ was influenced by my mom, dad, grandmother, and uncle.  But my belief in God came from an understanding (head knowledge) of my broken relationship with God, what Jesus provided for the relationship, and the future benefits of the relationship.  Then my transformation (life/spirit changing) occurred when I simply acknowledged all of that in a prayer to God.  When I acknowledged my fallen side of the relationship; when I acknowledged God's provision for my Salvation through Jesus; when I acknowledged that I am therefore a new creature in Christ, then I truly began my faith walk with my Lord, Savior and Friend - Jesus Christ.

Is your belief in God based on a miracle?  Did God miraculously heal you?  Did God save you from a perilous or dangerous situation?  Did God rescue you out of a lifestyle that was destructive?

These are reasonable beginnings to a life of faith in Christ Jesus.  However, my effort in this writing is to get all of us to revisit the "altars", the trophies or memorials of God in our lives.    

Altars in and of themselves are structures that were built to certain specifications and placed in a specific place for, as I have come to find out, many different uses.  The usual observation about altars is that they dealt with all the many sacrifices brought before the LORD throughout Jewish history.  Of course not only did Jews have a history of sacrificial altars but other cultures and races did as well (i.e. Mayans, Incas, etc.).  However, not only was it a place of daily sacrifice, but much more, for instance…  
  • It was portable (Ex. 27:7)
  • A place of offering (Ex. 29:18)
  • A place of consecration (Ex. 29:21)
  • A place of seeking holiness (Ex. 29:37)
  • A place of personal cleanliness (Ex. 40:32)
  • A place of death (Lev. 1:11-15)
  • A place of continual burning (Lev. 6:12-13)
  • A place of atonement (Lev. 17:11)
  • A place of God’s presence (Judges 13:20) 
  • A place where you can worship the wrong thing (Judges 6:25)
  • Where oaths are sworn (1 Kings 8:31)
  • Where prayers and supplications are made to the LORD (1 Kings 8:54)
  • Where the altar itself is cried out against (1 Kings 13:2)
  • It was a place to take from and apply to (Lev. 16:12-13, 46-47) 
  • A place for seeking guidance (2 Kings 16:15). 
  • It was a place that is cared for/tended to (Nu. 18:5)
  • It was a place to worship before (2 Chron. 32:12). 
  • Finally, what might be most striking but definitely gets you pondering is that the earthly altars were patterned after a heavenly altar (Isaiah 6:6; Revelation 6:9, 8:3). 
But before this version of the altar, men like Noah (Genesis 8:20), Abram (Genesis 12:7), Isaac (Genesis 26:25), Jacob (Genesis 35:1-3), and Moses (Exodus 17:15) all used the altar as memorials to God’s great work in their life at that time.  They would experience the intervention of God in their life in some way and then to remember it they would construct an altar and worship The Lord.  They typically named or titled the altar to signify the miracle or provision God had granted (i.e. “The LORD is My Banner” – Exodus 17:15).  And the altar was made from stone not earth.  Earth-made altars were for the purpose of sacrifices.  Stone-made altars were for the purpose of, according to God, "whenever I cause my name to be honored"Exodus 20:24-26 is the basis for this idea -

"'Make an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and cattle.  Whenever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.  If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.  And do not go up to my altar on steps, lest your nakedness be exposed on it.'"

Men like Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, took this practice seriously.  At every opportunity Israel built an altar to memorialize God's work in his life.  He even decorated his stones when God continued to bless a specific area of his life.  This is recorded in Hosea 10:1 -

"Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself. As his fruit increased, he built more altars; as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones." 

Now I am not asking anyone to go into their backyards and erect a stone altar to the Lord every time He blesses you.  If you build a stone altar for the Lord, that is between you and God.  However, I do desire to encourage all Believers in Christ to develop a system of remembrance, a Plan in our lives that documents and possibly verbalizes to someone the reasons behind "Who You Say HE IS".  This system or plan will crystallize in our heart, mind, and soul what we believe about this relationship we began with an invisible God that produces visible results.  The answer to - "Who do you say I am?" - by the testimony of all the altars in your life will fulfill 1 Peter 3:15 - "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect,"