Summary: Peter's responsibility was massive. Who would be allowed into this belief, who would find salvation? Our task is similar.
In the passage from Matthew 16:13-20 we hear a conversation between Jesus and Peter that happened in a region called Caesarea Philippi.
A wee bit of background to this conversation: prior to this conversation the disciples and Jesus had been on the other side of the Sea of Galilee in North Israel, they then crossed over, arriving at this city which Herod’s son Philip had named after Tiberius Caesar and himself. This was a pagan region where the city had been named after two kings. Amongst it we find a group of Jewish men, one who is a Rabbi, the Rabbi Jesus. The Rabbi asks a question of his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” This was like Jesus was questioning his disciples, asking “who do you say I am?”, or ‘what do you recon fella’s, who am I?’ Their reply was, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
The interesting thing here is that Jesus was being regarded in the same light as or even as one of the Old Testament prophets.
Jesus went onto ask the question, “But what about you, who do you say I am?”
The reply from Peter was profound. I wonder if it took a few of the other disciples by surprise even. Peter’s reply was “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
So here we are a group of believers in the one true God, with their Rabbi. On questioning his followers who they believed he was Peters declaration is “You are The Christ.” Now this is no small thing. The prediction of the Christ, aka The Messiah, aka The Chosen One, aka the Anointed One, The King had been around for many centuries. I was doing some work on the Psalms recently, one of the scholars’ commentaries I was reading was Jewish and in his commentary he was discussing the future coming of the Messiah. The coming of the Messiah was to be the biggest of events in the Hebrew people’s existence.
Jewish people have a good list of scriptures that they used to develop the concept of the coming Messiah, The Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Micah, Zephaniah, Zechariah, Daniel and the Psalmists all refer to the coming of this person.
Here is Peter in this pagan land, in a city named after two kings declaring to Jesus that he is the Messiah the King who was to come. Messiah.
The following comes from an online reading titled Judaism 101, “The word messiah has been replaced with Mashiach”, as the Jewish meaning did not according to this source include the concept of saviour. This page says this about the Mashiach.
“The Mashiach will be a great political leader descended from King David (Jeremiah 23:5). The Mashiach is often referred to as ‘Mashiach ben David’ (Mashiach, son of David). He will be well-versed in Jewish law, and observant of its commandments (Isaiah 11:2-5). He will be a charismatic leader, inspiring others to follow his example. He will be a great military leader, who will win battles for Israel. He will be a great judge, who makes righteous decisions (Jeremiah 33:15). But above all, he will be a human being, not a god, demi-god or other supernatural being.” (http://www.jewfaq.org/mashiach.htm)
The Christian concept of the Christ, the Messiah is that he is a great leader descended from the line of David, a son of David, Jesus is. He is well versed in Jewish law, and observant of its commandments. Jesus certainly is, he stated that he had not come to do away with the law but to fulfil the law. (refer Matthew 5:17). He even taught the teachers of the law in reference to the law. He has certainly inspired others by his example. Military leader, well Jesus is, however not in an earthly sense as he is the commander of the armies of heaven. Revelation 19:14 says this, “He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” We also know that he will judge the living and the dead; he is the one who will sort the sheep from the goats. He is human but also truly and properly God. In the Salvation Army we have a doctrine that says, “We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the Divine and human natures are united, so that he is truly and properly God and truly and properly man.”