To capture the full scope of the story today we have to go back to what happened before. Luke tells us that Jesus had commissioned his disciples to preach and heal and sent them out all over Israel to carry out his mission. News of what was happening spread quickly and there was great excitement among the Jews. The reports even reached king Herod who began to inquire about just who this man named Jesus was. The reports that came back to him were varied. He was afraid Jesus was a reappearance of John the Baptist whom he had murdered. He said, “Who, then, is this I hear such things about?” And he wanted to see him. Herod’s emissaries reported that most people thought Jesus was Elijah or one of the other prophets.
After the account concerning Herod’s curiosity, we find the story of the feeding of the multitudes. It was an astounding miracle. But there was more to the miracle than the display of supernatural power. Jesus was identifying himself with the God of the exodus who fed his people in the desert with bread from heaven. Jesus was making a claim to be God — and backing it up with the appropriate proof. The connection was not lost on the people who were more than familiar with the story of Moses and God’s great provision for their ancestors in the desert.
It was in Caesarea Philippi where Jesus turned to his disciples and asked what the crowds were saying about him. It was a town named after Caesar, and a place where he was worshiped as lord. “Caesar is lord,” was a phrase heard constantly in this place. It was also a place of pagan worship. There were all kinds of gods and lords who were worshiped there. It was a turning point in the life of the disciples for them to understand who really was Lord and God. When Jesus asked who people were saying he was, he heard the same responses that were given to Herod when he inquired about Jesus: “Well, some say you are John the Baptist risen from the dead. Others say you are Elijah, the great prophet who is to come at the last day. Still others that you are one of the prophets from long ago who has come back to life.” “But what about you?” Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” Then Peter, who was always the first to blurt something out, stated what was to him the obvious answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It was a dramatic statement and a breakthrough in the disciple’s understanding of Jesus. Their faith had blossomed and reached it’s objective.
An understanding of the Hebrew language helps to catch the significance of Peter’s response. The Greek word (Christos) “Christ” represented the Hebrew word for “Anointed,” or “Messiah.” It was a magic word to the ears of the Jew. The Messiah was the anointed of God, the holy One, the promised One who was to come. He would usher in the Kingdom of God. So Peter was saying, “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed of God who was promised by the prophets in Scripture. As the Messiah, you will usher in God’s Kingdom on earth.” Peter’s words ring with truth and their veracity is confirmed by Jesus’ response to Peter: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). Jesus was saying that the process of understanding who he is cannot merely be the result of intellectual investigation. This is something that must be revealed to you by the Holy Spirit of God.