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Jesus Asked For Public and Private Opinion

Updated on May 20, 2011

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "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."Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:13-18)

In this passage, we understand the questions of Jesus to include 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?” Who do the common folks of the day say that I 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.

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.

It is not enough to confess Jesus as a great teacher or a supreme religious example. As Jesus questioned his disciples that day, they pointed out that Jesus was being compared with John the Baptist, Elijah, and other prophets — high praise indeed. Notice what every man had in common. John the Baptist was dead. Elijah was dead. Jeremiah was dead and so were all the prophets. They all thought Jesus was one of those dead men returned from the dead.
It is not enough merely to mouth the opinions of others.

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. “Who do You say that I am?” 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.

All the disciples were present when Jesus questioned the disciples, but it was Peter who promptly declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” That is, the Messiah, or the Anointed One. 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.”

Peter’s confession alone satisfied Jesus’ confirmation. As Peter and the other disciples would learn, to confess Jesus Christ as Lord makes a transforming difference in our lives because of what God does in us. Peter’s confession is the first correct human statement about Jesus’ identity in the entire Bible.

Peter confessed Jesus as divine and as the promised and long awaited Messiah. If Jesus were to ask you this same question, how would you answer? “Who do YOU say that I am?” Is He your Lord and Messiah?

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?’

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.

Peter became the spokesperson for the group, and answered without hestitation. His answer was short and to the point, but oh, so true. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God. The people called him a prophet, but Peter affirmed Jesus as no mere prophet but “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter was right. Jesus is not just a prophet. He is the Son of 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.

Jesus called Himself Son of Man, but Peter called Him Son of the living God. The people’s notion of Him was that He was the ghost of dead men, but Peter knew him to be the Son of the living God. Peter’s knowledge of Jesus’ identity did not come from his own mind, but it was a revelation. It was a gift of God. It was a transforming confession. Peter could have lived and died a fisherman, but his faith in Jesus transformed his life. Then he was able to become a fisher of men. 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.

Peter answered correctly when he said,  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah!” Jesus gives him the keys of the kingdom which means 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.

Other people may say in their opinion that Jesus is just a prophet or a ghost returned from the dead, but we should confess like Peter, that Jesus is the Christ, He is the Messiah, He is the Anointed One. He is that same Jesus who died on the cross for our sins. He is that same Jesus who was buried. He is that same Jesus who arose from the dead. He is that same Jesus who ascended into heaven. He is that same Jesus who now sits on the right hand of God, on the right hand of the living God, on the right hand of God Almighty making intercessions for us. The PUBLIC OPINION is "Who do men say that I am?" The PRIVATE QUESTION is  “Who do YOU say that I am?”


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    • mattmilamii profile image

      Matthew Milam II 6 years ago from Chicago - Be A Blessing... Become A Hand Of God

      Dear revmjm,

      Who do “You” say I am?

      Often the answer that comes back when the question is asked is reduced to a reply joining a chorus of what the world says and hears regularly. When Jesus asked His disciples He made it personal. Our faith requires us to make Christ personal in relationship… He has to be. Jesus told the people that they must believe in the one God has sent (John 6:28-29). No matter what the world believes, each of us must personally believe for ourselves; it’s the key that turns belief into faith.


    • revmjm profile image

      Article Written By Margaret Minnicks 6 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, mattmilamii, for your well thought out comment. It is so good I feel like copying it and pasting it to be part of my article. Your thoughts are mine exactly.

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