“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Matthew 16:13).
This was a general question, but one that would lead to a more pointed question. The disciples had seen many wondrous things He had done. They had seen miraculous healings, they had seen Him use a few fish and loaves to feed thousands of people, they had heard Jesus teach, and they had also been witness to the confrontations with the Pharisees.
These twelve men had followed Jesus and it was time for them to recognize who He was. After the crucifixion it would fall to this band of fishermen and tax collectors to turn from followers to leaders. It was time for them to start putting two and two together and recognize that Jesus was their Messiah.
The first question was about other people’s opinions. Many had seen what Jesus had done, and the disciples were aware of the varied opinions.
“And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:14).
In those days the Jewish community was looking for the Messiah to come as a mighty warrior to rescue them from the oppression of the Romans, and so they didn’t view Jesus as their promised Messiah, just a messenger. He didn’t lead an army, just a small band of followers.
“For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form or comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:2-3).
Like many people today, they hadn’t paid attention to Scripture, and they read into it what they desired. They were looking for a conquering hero, but what they got was exactly who prophecy had foretold; Jesus came as a servant, in humbleness and gentleness. There were rumors about Him everywhere and many opinions, but if they had held Scripture as authority they would have known the truth. The next question Jesus asked His disciples was personal.
“He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).
This time He didn’t ask about the opinion of men in general, but each of His followers in particular. Outsiders had opinions, but these men followed Him. To them He wasn’t just passing through while He performed healings. He taught the disciples and He answered their questions. If anybody understood the truth of who He was, it was the twelve men who followed Him. The answer came from Peter.
“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16.)
I always get goose bumps when I read this. Peter made many mistakes, but he knew without a doubt who Jesus was, and He wasn’t ashamed to proclaim it.
This question, “Who do you say I am?” is one that every person who claims to follow Christ needs to answer. There are many people who don’t understand that Jesus Christ is God incarnate.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
John was one of the twelve disciples and he wrote these words. John knew who Jesus was.
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
The Word (God) became flesh (Jesus) and dwelt among us (His creation). That’s very clear. Peter knew it, John knew it, and they were not ashamed to say it.
The only one of the twelve who didn’t believe it was Judas. Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, and that was also prophesied by Zechariah.
“Then I said to them, ‘If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.” So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—that princely price they set on me.’ So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Zechariah 11:12-13).
This was a prophecy acted out by Zechariah regarding Jesus and it was fulfilled when Judas betrayed Him.
“Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him” (Matthew 26:14-16).
Judas had seen the same miracles and heard the same teachings as the other disciples, but the seeds of truth fell where the birds of the air ate them. I wonder what he was thinking when Jesus asked, “But whom say ye that I am?”
Do you think he might have thought that Jesus was the brother of Lucifer like some cults believe? Or maybe he thought Jesus was just another wise teacher like so many people today think. Whatever he thought, he came to a bad end. So it is with anyone who rejects the deity of Christ. You may claim to follow Him, but if you don’t know who He is, you have condemned yourself.
The conversation that Jesus had with His disciples continued. Peter’s declaration of Jesus being the Christ, was what Jesus had wanted them to have learned and He was pleased.
“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).
Peter had a direct revelation from God. The deity of Christ is a basic foundation of the Christian faith. If you’re blinded to that fact, you need to study God’s word and understand this truth. There are many places in Scripture where Jesus declared His deity, but at the illegal trial where the Jewish leaders condemned Jesus to die, the verdict of death was because of blasphemy. They had asked Jesus many questions and He refused to answer, but they persisted.
“But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mark 14:61).
This high priest wanted to know if Jesus thought Himself to be God. This time Jesus answered their question.
“And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:620.
That statement drew much anger.
“Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death” (Mark 14:63-64).
Now, let’s get back to Jesus’ questions to His disciples. After Peter made the God-inspired statement as to Christ’s deity, Jesus explained that He would build upon this basic, but important, foundation.
“And I say also unto thee, ‘That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’” (Matthew 16:18).
There are some who believe that the ekklēsia (translated “church”) was built upon Peter. How wrong they are. Jesus was referring to the truth of the statement Peter had made, not to Peter himself. There is only one foundation and that is Jesus Christ.
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1).
Don’t allow the doctrines of men or devils to confuse you. Study Scripture for yourself and understand God’s truth. There are many false doctrines being taught, but prayerfully studying God’s word will help clear up errors. God does not want you to be deceived.
“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
If you confess Jesus before men, then you need to be certain who He is. If you only see Him as man who was very nice or a someone who taught some good ideas, then you are not making the correct confession. Thomas was one of the twelve, and he didn’t want to be deceived. He had seen Jesus crucified and buried. He hadn’t been in the upper room when Jesus had entered a locked door to visit with His disciples after He had risen from the dead.
They had told Thomas, but he doubted them. He said he wouldn’t believe unless he put his finger in the nail prints and thrust his hand into His side. After all, a mere man could not have risen from the dead. So, eight days later Jesus once again entered the locked room where the disciples were gathered together.
“Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27).
Yes, Jesus heard Thomas’ doubts, just as He hears what we confess about Him. It isn’t His wish that anyone should perish, and until we are given every opportunity to recognize and accept Him as God Almighty…to put our hand into His side, so to speak.
“And Thomas answered and said unto him, ‘My Lord and my God’” (John 20:28).
Thomas knew beyond all doubt that Jesus truly is God. Don’t let doubt cause you to deny Christ.
“Jesus saith unto him, ‘Thomas, because thou has seen me, thou has believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed’” (John 20:29).
Like Thomas, you have a choice. You can hold onto your doubts and die in your sin or you can accept the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and know that He is your Lord and your God. If you know who He truly is you will live eternally with Him. There is no other way to gain salvation than through the shed blood of Jesus. If you see Him as less than God, then you don’t know Him.
Hear the question one more time, and be sure you have the right answer:
“He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).
God bless you all,