Did the Disciples of Jesus fully understand His identity?
Matthew 16:13-18 describes a private interchange between Jesus and His disciples. Jesus inquires about people’s perception of Himself. The responses are varied: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets. But all were influentially spiritual Jewish men who had died, implying a resurrection or incarnation of some sort.
But when Jesus asked more specifically the disciple’s opinion, Peter spoke up: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus commends Peter for his human perception of a divine revelation. Take note of the two titles Peter offers: Christ, or “Messiah” the anointed one, and “Son of the Living God.”
What makes Peter’s declaration so important? What was Peter actually admitting? What difference does it make if Jesus really is the Messiah?
The Christ, the “Messiah”
The concept of Jewish messiah (Hebrew: “mashiach”) has some interesting Old Testament antecedents such as Priests, Kings, prophets, and even Cyrus, the Persian King (Isaiah 44:24-45:5). Anyone anointed by God for a work was a “messiah” of sorts.
However, Jewish apocalyptic fervor in the time of Jesus had created a sense of expectation, hopes in a king like David who would give them rest from the oppression of Rome. But Matthew 16:20-25 suggest another type of work for Jesus, one Peter attempted to sidetrack.
What did Jesus teach concerning His real role as Messiah at the first Advent?
The “Son of God”
Jesus’ second title is “son of God.” Peter had some Scriptural reason (from the Old Testament) to call Jesus the Son of God: see 2 Samuel 7:12-1, Proverbs 30:4, Psalm 2:7-12, Isaiah 7:14 for some possibilities.
What does the title “son of God” imply about Jesus’ relationship to people while He was here on earth? Do we fully understand Jesus’ role today?
Matthew 16—The Keys of the Kingdom
Immediately following Peter’s confession of Jesus’ identity, in vss. 18-19 Jesus offers Peter (singular “you” in Greek) the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus’ use of the future passive (“it will have been done”) shows that using that key, the earthly binding and losing, is a reflection of something already accomplished in Heaven. Peter has no authority to command Heaven, only to reflect it.
Jesus says the Kingdom is built on the “rock”. In this passage, and others in the New Testament, who or what is the rock on which the Kingdom is built? Is it Peter? Something else? How does the transfiguration story that follows reflect this kingdom?
Seeing the disciple’s reaction to Jesus’ death, they still were unclear as to His identity. Although we want precision, we also grow in our understanding of Christ as the disciples did.