This week, we heard Pastor George preach on Matthew 16:13-16, where we read about the different opinions people had on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth;
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
At this point in Jesus’ ministry, his fame was spread throughout the regions surrounding Jerusalem. He had healed, fed, and preached to thousands of people. Now he asks his disciples what the people’s opinion and their own opinion of him is.
The crowds that had followed Jesus had many different opinions about who Jesus was. Whether they thought he was John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah, they recognized the things he did to be from God. Therefore, this Jesus of Nazareth must be some sort of prophet. They got that part right, but were too spiritually blind to recognize the fullness of who Jesus was. This blindness led them to call for his execution, just as the spiritually blind throughout the years had persecuted and even executed the prophets.
Jesus then asks his true disciples who they think he is. Peter gives the only correct answer to this question. He replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The word, “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name as some believe today. The word means “the Messiah” or “the Anointed One.” It refers not simply to his prophetic office, but to his kingship. This word had been used by the prophets of old to refer to the one who would come to sit on the throne of David and deliver his people. Though there had been many anointed kings, the people of Israel were always to be looking toward the anointed one, who would establish his eternal kingdom. Jesus had been fulfilling the prophecies about the Messiah in plain sight of all the people and religious leaders, but they still rejected him.
Peter also recognized Jesus as the Son of God. Both Peter and the crowds knew that Jesus’ works testified to the fact that he was a prophet, but Peter, unlike the crowds, listened to and believed this prophet when he claimed in John 8:58 to be “I AM” and thus make himself equal with God. To claim sonship with God was to claim that he was of like nature, God himself. This was clearly grasped by the crowds and pharisees in John 8, since their immediate response was to stone Jesus for blasphemy.
Jesus also reminds us that this recognition does not come from earthly eyes, for we are all born as spiritually blind as the crowds. This revelation comes from the Father. Only God can open our eyes and our hearts to know his Son. Let us thank God that he has given us the eyes to behold “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”