In the Fulness of Time/Part 105

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2008
Whom do men say that I am? Jesus asked his disciples this question, and their response included Peter’s great confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But why would people think Jesus was John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the prophets? Dr. Figart explains.

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Simon Peter’s Confession and the Savior’s Church. Matthew 16:13-20

Mankind’s Opinion About Christ. Matthew 16:13-14

Matthew 16:13-14 “When Jesus came into the borders of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Christ uses this preliminary question both as an attention-getter and to cause His disciples to evaluate their own opinion of Him. Four answers are given.

The first probably came as a result of Herod’s action against John and his subsequent statement in Matthew 14:2: “This is John the Baptist risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him.”

The second opinion named Elijah, no doubt because their own Old Testament prophesied in Malachi 4:5 that Elijah the prophet should be sent by God before that great and terrible judgment of the Day of the LORD.

Third, there were some who thought Jesus was Jeremiah. This was based possibly, on two Apocryphal accounts:

And Jeremiah came and found a chamber in the rock, and there he brought in the tabernacle and the ark, and the altar of incense, and he made fast the door. And some of those that followed with him came there that they might mark the way, and could not find it. But when Jeremiah perceived it, he blamed them, saying, Yea, and the place shall be unknown until God gather the people again together and mercy come: and then shall the Lord disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord shall be seen, and the cloud (2 Maccabees 2:5-8).

The other Apocryphal story is from 2 Esdras 2:16-18: “And those that be dead will I raise up again from their places, and bring them out of the tombs: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord. For thy help will I send my servants Esaias and Jeremy.”

Each of these legends has something to say about a future time when Jeremiah is somehow involved, or predicts something which will happen. Thus, the ministry of Jesus was looked upon by some of the Jews as the fulfillment of such stories as these. They did not necessarily see in Jesus a Messiah, but moreso a forerunner of the Messiah.

Essentially the same thing would be true of the fourth opinion, that “one of the prophets is risen again” (Luke 9:19). This would certainly include Isaiah, who is mentioned along with Jeremiah in 2 Esdras 2.

The Disciples’ Opinion About Christ. Matthew 16:15

Matthew 16:15 “He saith unto them, But who say ye that I am?

Jesus uses a mild contrast “But” (de) to begin His question. In contrast to the general opinion of man and the Jewish theories; “What do you think of me?” In asking this question, Jesus uses the plural “ye” as well as the emphatic pronoun “Ye, who say ye that I am?” Though Jesus already knew what everyone thought of Him, yet He wanted His disciples to commit themselves openly and personally concerning Him.


Peter’s Confession About Christ. Matthew 16:16

Matthew 16:16 “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The three personages involved in this verse are the Apostle, the Anointed One and the Almighty! The Apostle, Simon Peter, was so named by

Christ in John 1:42: “Thou art Simon, the son of Jonah; thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a stone” (petros). Even though Peter had vacillated and had not acted like a stone; even though he had shown little faith on some occasions; and even though he would deny his Lord later, he now makes a true and significant affirmation of the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Just as Jesus had used the emphatic pronoun in His question to the disciples, so here Peter uses the emphatic pronoun in his reply: “Thou, thou art the Christ.” Note also that he uses the definite article in the predicate, which makes it interchangeable with the subject: “Thou, thou art the Christ; the Christ is Thou.” Andrew, Peter’s brother, had introduced Jesus to Peter in this very same way: “We have found the Messiah, which is being interpreted, the Christ” (John 1:41). Peter describes Jesus further, calling Him “the Son of the living God.” He is a Divine/Human Person, not merely a human Messiah; He is Messiah, God’s Son!

The title, “the living God” was used for the first time in Deuteronomy 5:26 as Moses rehearsed the fears of the people of Israel when they said, “For who is there of all flesh, who hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?” It seems that the emphasis in this Name “El Chay” or “Elohim Chayim” is on His Almighty power, whether to judge or to rescue His people from their enemies. It is used fifteen times in the Old Testament and sixteen times in the New Testament, one of which is Hebrews 10:31: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Since Jesus is the Son of the living God, it is no surprise that “in him was life” (John 1:4) and that He could say, “I am the resurrection and the life… whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).


Peter’s Confession Was the Father’s Revelation. Matthew 16:17

Matthew 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon, Bar-Jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father, who is in heaven.”

Whether is the “son of Jonah” (Bar-Iona) or “the son of John” (Bar Yohanen, as in John 1:43) depends upon how the Greek transliteration is taken. It is of little consequence in the interpretation of the passage, since it is not symbolic; rather it is simply a family name. The important thing in this verse is that what Peter said came by revelation from the Father. The concept of the divine Sonship of the Messiah was not from “flesh and blood” but came from heaven directly! The Apostle Paul made the same claim in Galatians 1:12 concerning the revelation of the Gospel to him, and in Ephesians 3:3 concerning the revelation of the Church as the organism composed of Jews and Gentiles on an equal basis in the same Body. Thus, here, from the mouth of Peter came the Father’s confirmation of the Divine relationship of the Son with the Father. This relationship will be revealed universally “in the fulness of time” when Jesus returns to earth as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

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