Summary: who is Peter in the light of Christ

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MATTHEW 16.13-23

Recently I have been working through a journal workbook based on John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart. One of the chapters in the book requires you to ask some people to answer questions about you. One of the people whom I asked to answer the questions began his reply with the following comment: ‘These are a scary list of questions. What happens if you find out no one actually likes you? Ha, Ha, Ha.’ The answers were very revealing and very helpful to me. It can be a frightening thing to ask someone to be honest with you about yourself. Jesus has reached the moment when he needs to ask a fundamental question of his disciples.

He has been with them for about 2.5 years. Yet if you look at verses 8 and 9 of chapter 16 you realise that the disciples still have failed to fully understand who he is and why he has come. The cross is only 6 months away and knowing that he needs to teach them deeper things about himself and his mission Jesus chooses this moment to ask them two questions. He chooses to ask them the questions at Caesarea Philippi, a city which was dedicated to the worship of Pan and the worship of the emperor Caesar. This place is a predominantly Gentile city and one which is given over to pagan worship. It would not have been lost on the disciples, or the readers of the gospels that Jesus had chosen the place where false gods were worshipped to reveal himself as the Son of the Living God.


Luke 9.18 tells us that Jesus has been praying in private before he enters upon this discussion with his disciples. Having been in intimate fellowship with his Father in prayer Jesus then comes to his disciples and asks two very searching questions. READ Verse 13 – this is a pretty searching question. Jesus in a moment will ask them not what other people say but what they think of him. Matthew records four answers to this question. Some believe Jesus to be John the Baptist – who had been beheaded by Herod, had come back to life. Herod himself believed this. However the stupidity of this answer is easy to see when we remember that John had actually baptised Jesus. Then some think he is Elijah, of whom it was said that he would appear before the Day of the Lord (Malachi 4.5). Again we know that Jesus had identified John the Baptist as the one who had fulfilled that prophecy. He was the voice in the desert preparing the way of the Lord.

Others thought he was Jeremiah one of the great later OT prophets. And finally the disciples say that others think he is one or other of the prophets of the OT come back again. The one thing which is clear from all these answers – the people did not see Jesus as an ordinary man. There was something distinct, remarkable and different about Jesus. There was something which made him stand out from the crowd, which drew people to him and which compelled them to try and figure out who he was. Nothing much has changed in the last 2003 years. Jesus still perplexes people today. He is still that enigmatic charismatic figure that attracts people. Many still put forward ideas as to who he was.


The answers to the question in verse 13 are only a prelude to the really important question of verse 15. It was to this question that Jesus had been leading them for the past 2.5 years. The answer to this question would lead him to take them further in their understanding of whom he was and why he had come. Jesus did not need to ask these questions in order to gain information. John 2.24-25 tells us that he knew all men. So if he is not looking for information why ask the questions? The reason is to give the disciples an opportunity to confess their belief in him and their understanding of his Messiahship. We will see that they have a right belief but a wrong understanding of what Messiah means.

Verse 16 – well Peter speaks for the 12, READ verse 16. This is a profound confession by Peter. In fact he speaks of more than he truly knows or understands at this point. Peter’s confession is spoken with directness and with force.

You are the Christ – the Anointed One, the One we and all Israel has been waiting for. You are the Messiah. You are the living hope of the people of Israel.

The Son of the Living God – the only begotten of the Father. Peter assigns divinity to Jesus with these words. That is an amazing statement to come from a monotheistic Israelite. In speaking this phrase Peter could, and would, be accused of blasphemy and of breaking the commandments of God. Yet he speaks with clarity, with precision and with force – You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

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