Luke 9:18-20 (NIV) Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered,
“The Christ of God.”
The time was drawing near for Jesus to finish His work on earth and return to heaven. He had healed thousands, had set hundreds free from demon possession, and had worked tirelessly to tell everyone He had contact with about the reality of the kingdom of God.
But He had not publicly claimed to be the Messiah, except to a very few, and those predominantly in private situations away from the crowds. The word “Messiah” had grown so many meanings in the minds and hearts of the Jewish people, many of them with strictly political overtones, that Jesus didn’t want His claim on that title to be tainted by those views. So He had not yet claimed that title for Himself, preferring the title “Son of Man,” which had messianic implications without the political overtones.
But with the approach of His suffering, death, and resurrection so near, He needed to know if His closest followers, at least, had connected the dots. So He asked the question, beginning with the less threatening, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
The disciples had been among the people in the crowds as Jesus worked, so they had heard the speculation: John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets, the same list of opinions that had gotten back to Herod (Luke 9:7-8). Jesus smiled. All of those guesses were in the ballpark, but so far off from home plate.
Then Jesus asked the disciples, the Twelve, who they believed Him to be. At this stage of the game it really didn’t matter who the crowds thought Jesus was. But if His own followers hadn’t come to the right conclusion, that was serious.
Peter acted as the spokesperson for the group: “You are the Messiah of God.” (“Christ” is simply the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah.” Both mean “anointed one.”) The rest of the disciples nodded in agreement. They had reached the same conclusion. Jesus was greatly relieved; they had figured it out!
Father, the early disciples figured out this truth after living with, traveling with, and serving alongside Jesus. But we, Your people of today, need to know this truth ourselves. There is no room in the Church for a purely human Jesus, a good man, a gifted teacher. Instead, we must know and clearly proclaim the scriptural truth that Jesus is the living Son of God, the Messiah who came to earth to die for us, to rise and defeat death, and to save us. Amen.