When the conversation recorded in Matthew 16 verses 13 through 20 took place Jesus was about finished with his walkabout through Galilee, teaching and working miracles. It was six months or so prior to his death. He had not openly told anyone who he was, but had taught the Word of God in streets, homes, in local synagogues, and out in front of large outdoor gatherings. He healed all kinds of diseases, raised the dead, cast out devils, and gave sight to the blind. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. This was altogether different from what the religious nuts, then or now, go around conjuring up and posing over. Nobody was being tricked or misused. It was all right out in the open: in plain sight. No one had ever taught what he taught. And you could go and hear and see it all for yourself. There were no handlers; there was no advance team, no PR man, no musical director, no dancers, no lighting, and no crew. And Jesus left it up to the participants and observers to formulate their own opinions about what was happening and about what they saw.
When a full presentation of the examples of his power had been made to the various people and groups; and when they had heard the Good News and about the return of the Kingdom of God, with the coming of the new “Called Out Assembly” then he asked his disciples: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
Well, the disciples had been listening too. They had heard what the opinions were. “Some say you are John the Baptizer come back from the dead.” Apparently Herod was leaning that direction. And “Some say you are Elijah or Jeremiah or another of the prophets returned to life again.”
The obvious part is that nobody around Galilee (or for that matter, anywhere else) thought that Jesus was just a common man. NOBODY! Not one soul believed he was just plain old “somebody” out of Nazareth. He wasn’t just the next in a long line of pretenders and he wasn’t cut from the same cloth as the Pharisees and all of the scribes or teachers of Israel. These folks had seen and heard and every one of them knew better.
Wouldn’t it be a lot harder to believe that Jesus was somebody who had come back from the dead (no matter who you might name) than it would be to believe that he was the Messiah that all the Jews had supposedly been waiting and watching for? That he was in fact the Son of God?
He then asked his disciples, “But who do you say that I AM?” By then the truth had to have been burning like the noonday sun, making it hard to miss. And Peter answered the question the only possible way, and with the one answer that surely all of the disciples had already sorted out from all the others. And speaking for everyone one of them he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Yes, you are the Messiah; you are Emmanuel, the Chosen One of Israel, my Savior and LORD. The facts speak volumes. Can you hear it?
The Lord blessed Peter for acknowledging the obvious and for his faith. He said that it had not been revealed by flesh and blood but by God the Father, the Lord God Almighty. Yet Peter didn’t take a shot to the head and no Spirit overtook him to get him there. He saw, he heard and he chose. He made a judgment that acknowledged the evidence and he came to a conclusion – that’s how God revealed it.
Here’s another sure thing. Jesus isn’t here anymore — not out in plain sight and working his way through towns and cities. And none of the Apostles are around either, no matter what anyone says to the contrary. And though I alluded to it already, NOBODY today is working the signs that Jesus worked. Those days and those things are all long gone (and you know it is true, no matter what you may profess). So, let’s ask the same question: “Who do you say that I the Son of Man am?”
Well Lord, I have read what you left me, and I have listened to the record; and I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. I got the same information and I reached the same conclusion Peter and all the rest did.
If you have some doubt, then maybe you need to bury your head in the Word of God, in the Good News, and not come up for air until you have it answered. Nobody can get you there without your acceptance of the evidence, just like Peter and the rest had to do. And NOBODY is going to see these kinds of signs again until it is too late to answer the question.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.
And every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess.