And Simon Peter Answered

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

Correct answer, Peter — Correct!

The disciples messed up a lot. They often misspoke because they misunderstood. For example, they did not understand the parables with any regularity. They did not see the sense of Jesus’ suffering and death. They fell asleep in the garden. They scattered, abandoning him—and Peter out and out denied knowing Jesus at all. What a miserable lot! But the dawn of understanding rose over the coasts of Caesarea Philippi one day when Jesus asked of his disciples, “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter responded with immediate and direct honesty, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” and in this, he showed his true heart.

Jesus commended Peter and let him know in no uncertain terms that this knowledge of his divinity came directly from the Father, not from men. In this, we were given a model to help us recognize that special kind of knowledge which comes from above. We may know academically that Jesus is God. We may preach it from our pulpits, write about it in journals, or proclaim it from the rooftops, but those activities can never replace the knowledge which God gives believers about Jesus, that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God!

Even within the core group of disciples, there was always speculation about Jesus. When the twelve were being called, Andrew told Simon (Peter) that they had found the Messiah! That was his understanding of the Jesus phenomenon at that moment. But questions like, who is he really? What will he do? Will he restore the nation? When? How? had to dominate those early days, and although those in-house communications were necessary and good, they could not hold the same weight as Peter’s answer to Jesus — an utterance of eternal import that came with stunning brevity. Jesus asked the direct question, and Peter gave a direct answer. Jesus verified it as correct, and the Holy Spirit locked it down in Scripture for all time.

We commentators make much about Peter’s impetuous nature, his jumping out of the boat, blurting out at the transfiguration, cutting off Malchus’s ear, etc. But this type of behavior shows what is in the heart of a man, whether good or bad. Since impetuous people tend to act out rather than filter out speech and actions, they display their hearts to the world in a way the rest of us do not. Peter’s utterance was important to God because this was a scriptural first — the first plain assertion by a disciple that Jesus was God. Please note, however, that Peter’s utterance did not cause Jesus to become deity. He was just joining in with the four beasts which say, day and night, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” (Revelation 4:8) Thank you, Peter. And again, let me say, right answer!

Salvation is simple: God the Father draws us to himself (John 6:44). The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin. We become born again by receiving Jesus as Savior (John 3:3). Then the Holy Spirit bears witness with the Father that we are his children (Romans 8:15). But who will know our hearts unless we take the Spirit’s prompting to speak? The truth that was delivered specially to Peter on that day has since been delivered to the whole world: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God! Are you saved? Prove it to the world. What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart. And some things just need to be said.

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