Here they were, heading for Caesarea Philippi. Jesus and the disciples walked past the familiar sites of Galilee in Judea and entered foreign territory. They could see the signs of idolatry everywhere. Jesus longed to help His disciples understand their responsibility toward the surrounding nations who didn’t believe in the true God. Would they be able to understand Jesus’ mission to save everyone, including the Gentiles, whom the Jews despised? Would they understand that Jesus would suff er and die to save them from their sins? The time was fast approaching when their beloved Master would be taken away from them to be nailed to a cross and die. For this reason Jesus wanted to spend time with His disciples.
Jesus turned off the dusty road and led the way through a grassy field to some shade trees beside the stream. As Jesus and His disciples sat in the shade, He gave them an opportunity to affi rm their belief in Him. He asked them a question:
“Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
Jesus knew that if the disciples acknowledged Him as the Messiah, their faith would be strengthened for the diffi cult times that were ahead.
“Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets,” they answered. Jesus sighed. All those answers showed that people believed Him to be a prophet. But they had failed to recognize that He was truly God. Jesus turned to His disciples and asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”
The disciples looked at one another. Peter felt impressed to give an answer. So he answered Jesus, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
This answer met the reassuring response of Jesus’ approval. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven,” Jesus told him (Matthew 16:13-17).
Although Peter stated his belief in Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, the disciples didn’t yet have a clear understanding of Christ’s mission.
Their ideas about the mission of the Messiah were still rooted in the false teaching of the scribes and Pharisees. They still hoped that Jesus would declare Himself king and overthrow the Roman government.
How far from the truth were these hopes in light of the true purpose of Jesus’ ministry. He didn’t come to be served, but to serve. He didn’t come to conquer through force, but to love unconditionally. He didn’t seek revenge for injustice, but came to heal, forgive, and restore.
Jesus didn’t want anyone to perish. His greatest desire was to save from the clutches of sin everyone who would believe in Him. To accomplish our salvation, Jesus was even willing to sacrifice His own life.
Jesus gazed into the distance. There was still so much to teach the disciples and His followers here on earth. They didn’t understand yet what was going to happen. He had to go to Jerusalem, and there He would suffer and die on a cross. Then He would rise again on the third day.
Think of the disciples and how their life changed after they came to recognize that Jesus was the Son of God. Their entire life received a whole new meaning and purpose. Their life’s mission became focused on sharing that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
Think about what it means to you that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” How has knowing Jesus changed you? Are you willing to trust Him with everything in your life? When you choose to live for Jesus, you will want to share your joy of knowing Him with others. Then, like Peter, you will experience the meaning of Jesus’ reassuring promise: “Blessed are you”!