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Jesus Asked For Public and Private Opinion
"Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:13-18)
Jesus' First Question
In Matthew 16:13-18, Jesus asked for both the public opinion of men and the private opinion of the disciples. Jesus first questioned the disciples about a public opinion. The public question was, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
Jesus knew the answer. He did not ask to check the popularity poles or to receive praise. Jesus knew the disciples were not so isolated and so ignorant that they did not know what the word on the street was. Jesus based his question on the assumption that his disciples were aware of what people were saying about him.
He knew everyone did not believe the same thing just as we don’t all believe the same things about Jesus today. There were different opinions. Some said one thing, and some said another thing. And they were all wrong about who Jesus was.
The Disciples' Answer
Some say you are John the Baptist, others say you are Elijah, others say you are Jeremiah, and still others say you are one of the prophets. John the Baptist was really a forerunner of Jesus. Elijah did perform many miracles. Jeremiah was a major prophet. The miracles of Jesus did resemble those of the prophets. That public opinion was the common view — that Jesus was one of the great prophets come back from the dead. The public opinion was that people acknowledged Jesus as a great man equal to those they knew or had heard of — such men as John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or some of the other prophets.
Jesus' Second Question
Having received the public opinion, then Jesus asked his disciples for a private opinion. He asked them another question. “Who do YOU say that I am?” He pointedly asked for their evaluation of him.
Jesus was not seeking popularity. He was seeking a faithful confession from his disciples. The disciples told Jesus what others were saying, and it was all wrong. Now just days before going to the cross, Jesus asked, “Who do YOU say that I am?” He wanted to make sure they knew in their hearts who he really was instead of listening to others’ opinion.
The question was put to the disciples to see if they had any real understanding beyond what the crowds believed. They had lived with Jesus day after day. They believed his promises. They had obeyed His call. Now Jesus asked them to confess their faith.
The PUBLIC OPINION: "Who do men say that I am?"
The PRIVATE QUESTION: “Who do YOU say that I am?”
All the disciples were present when Jesus questioned the disciples, but it was Peter who became the spokesperson for the group. He answered with hesitation and declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
With the head, Peter knew this, but something in his life, something had touched his heart for him to boldly declare, “You are the Christ.”
The people called him a prophet, but Peter affirmed Jesus as no mere prophet but “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Through the Holy Spirit, Peter confessed Jesus as Messiah because he could not have known it with his own mind. It was really God speaking through Peter.
Peter’s confession is the first correct human statement about Jesus’ identity in the entire Bible.
It is not enough to know what others say about Jesus. We are called to know who Jesus is to us. When Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do You say that I am?” He was really saying to the disciples, “You have been with me for three years now, so who do you really know me?” You have seen me heal the sick, raise the dead, feed the multitudes on two separate occasions, walk on water, so who do YOU say that I am?’
Peter's Blessing For Answering Correctly
Peter’s confession became the foundation on which the church was built. We, who confess Jesus as the Christ are part of that same foundation.
After Peter answered correctly when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah!” Jesus gives him the keys of the kingdom which mean authority and responsibility for doing the work of God on earth. He said on this rock (on the confession of Peter’s faith) I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Jesus' Questions and the Answers He Received
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