"When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, 'Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?' So they said, 'Some say John the baptizer, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven'" (Matt. 16:13-17).
Jesus inquired of His disciples regarding the common people's opinion of Him. He wasn't interested in what the rulers and religious leaders thought. Their response included the names of John the baptizer, Elijah, and Jeremiah. Some, perhaps out of superstition or a guilty conscience, believed that Jesus was John risen from the dead (cf. Matt. 14:2). Some likely thought He was the prophet Elijah or Jeremiah because of the boldness with which he denounced the sins of the age. Others, unable to decide, were content to think of Jesus as just "one of the prophets." It should be noted that although the multitudes did not think that Jesus was the Messiah, they did not consider Him to be anything less than a prophet. However, if they truly believed Him to be a prophet, then they should have accepted the claims He made--even the ones He made about Himself (e.g., John 6:35ff). They were without excuse in this regard. Surely they rejected the thought of Him as the Messiah because He didn't fit their preconceived notion of what the Christ would be like. At least the multitudes can be given credit for discussing the issue, for certainly that is how the variety of opinions developed.
"But who do you say that I am?" - Jesus then asked them a personal question which called for a confession of their own convictions. This question probed to the very depth of their faith and asked for a clear, verbal expression of it. Jesus didn't ask them this question a week after He met them, for they wouldn't have been able to make a proper confession at that time. However, at this point they have been together for probably over two years. They had sufficient time and opportunity to witness hundreds of miracles and hear hundreds of lessons. Anyone with a good and honest heart could have made a correct judgment regarding Jesus' identity after all this time.
Let it be observed that it is not the case that Jesus didn't know the answer to the two questions before He asked them. However, asking the questions presented an opportunity to teach the apostles and strengthen their faith through a verbal confession.
"Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God'" (Matt. 16:16). Peter, the disciple best known for impulsiveness, answered beautifully on this occasion as he rose above the popular theories of the day and proclaimed Jesus to be the divine Messiah. Peter doesn't state his confession as an opinion but as a fact. His confession contains two propositions: (1) Jesus as the Christ and (2) Jesus as the Son of the living God. Peter, and probably most of the apostles, had come to view Jesus as the Messiah (i.e., the Christ, the anointed one). They believed He was the prophesied Savior. They also believed He was the divine Son of the living God. That is, Jehovah was not an inanimate piece of wood or stone; He was the only true, living deity, and Jesus was His Son.
We will continue studying this narrative in our next lesson.