Caesarea Philippi was a city built entirely on a rocky terrace on the southwest base of Mt. Hermon by Herod the Great’s son, Philip, who had dedicated the area to the Roman Emperor Caesar Tiberius.
It was against this background that Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13b NASB).
Jesus’ disciples, gave the Lord exactly that for which he had asked. They gave the “conventional wisdom” of the day. The three main opinions were that Jesus was John, his cousin, come back from the dead, or that Jesus was Elijah or perhaps Jeremiah or another prophet.
Then, Jesus asked more specifically about what they thought. Suddenly, there was no chorus of opinions. Instead, there is just once voice and it was from Simon.
“You are the Christ, the son of the living God,” Simon said.
Jesus pronounced a blessing on Simon because not only had he come to the knowledge of this truth, but also because it had been provided him by God the father (Matthew 16:17). How had this truth been revealed to Simon?
The truth had been revealed to this man through Jesus’ teachings. This is the same way men receive faith in Jesus even today. The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome saying, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Why did God choose this method of building faith? The answer to the question has to do with preserving freedom of choice to mankind. God could have revealed the truth of his son to man in a miraculous manifestation. Had he done so, who could say they arrived at their faith through their own decision? Giving men the ability to hear the word of Christ, believe it and obey it on their own preserves man’s ability to choose. This freedom God wanted to preserve.
Simon came to the knowledge of Christ’s divinity completely on his own through listening to Jesus and seeing his actions. Matthew begins the education of the disciples at the “Sermon on the Mount.” Their schooling in faith continued as they observed Jesus perform miracles and teach the truth.
It continues to be a faith transmitted by the word of Christ. People hear and listen to the word, and they that obey it become children of God. They did on Pentecost (Acts 2:37-38). The Ethiopian Eunuch did (Acts 8:35). The Gentiles of Cornelius’ household did (Acts 10:47-48).
And it is even today. So, what’s your answer to Jesus question? Who do you say he is?