Matthew 16:13-16 (NIV) When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
There was no shortage of opinion as to the identity of Jesus among the people of Israel. Some, like Herod, believed Him to be John the Baptist risen from the dead with miraculous powers. This was primarily because of the similar emphasis on the kingdom of God in the messages of both men.
Others believed Jesus to be Elijah back from the dead, because of His ability to do mighty miracles like Elijah, and His often fierce denunciation of the “powers that be.” They also hoped that, if He really was Elijah, that He was busy paving the way for the Messiah, according to the prophecy of Malachi (Malachi 4:5-6).
Still others heard in Jesus’ clear teaching and uncompromising speaking of the message of God, the voice of a great prophet, like Jeremiah. And with that viewpoint, they looked to Him to tell them clearly what God required of them, so that they could live in His favor and finally be allowed out from under the thumb of Rome.
These people saw Jesus here and there, and listened to Him for short periods. They had seen a few examples of the miracles that Jesus could do, and had heard a sample of His teachings. But His disciples had lived with Him for nearly three years at this point, and had heard and seen much more.
Peter spoke first, but nobody in the group disagreed with His answer to the question of Jesus’ identity: “You are the Christ, the Messiah, and the Son of the living God.” It is important to note that this was not the impetuous judgment of someone caught up in the emotion of the moment. Nor was it the declaration of a sycophant trying to curry favor, or the ignorant judgment of someone taken in by a few fake miracles. These men had lived with Jesus continually for years. They had seen who He really was when no crowds were around. They had seen His miracles with clear and wondering eyes, and knew that no trickery could possibly explain what they had witnessed. They had heard His teachings, and had seen His compassion and love for the people. They had even heard His earnest prayers as He conversed with God, in phrases that sounded so real and natural, exactly like a son speaking to his father.
The fact that Jesus really was the Messiah was a conviction that some had had from the beginning (see John 1:41), but which had grown in the minds and hearts of the rest of the twelve over the weeks, months, and years of seeing Him work and hearing Him teach. And now that Peter had actually spoken the words out loud, they looked to Jesus Himself to see His reaction.
Father, the opinions of those who dipped in and out of Jesus’ sphere as to His identity were useless, as were the opinions of those with axes to grind against Jesus. How much more the opinions of those today who have a cursory understanding of what Jesus taught and did, or even those who are well versed, but only know Him from the pages of books and scholarly research. Then, as now, only those who live with Jesus on a day-by-day basis, who hear His voice each day and experience His wonders first-hand in their lives can have a valid opinion as to who and what He is. Thank You for enabling my relationship with Jesus, so that I can really know Him, and so that I can really know that He is indeed the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Amen.