One day when Jesus was at prayer, he turned to his apostles and asked them this question: "Who, who do the crowds say that I am?"
Now Jesus was not all that concerned with what the people were saying about him, with their opinions and speculations. The purpose of his first question was simply to lead into the second - "Who do you, my intimate companions, who do you think I really am?"
Enlightened, no doubt, by the prayers of Jesus for him, prayers whispered moments before, Peter speaks the awesome truth - "You are the Messiah, the Christ!" All eyes turn to Jesus. What will he say? Will he laugh it off? Surely he will deny it! Perhaps with some degree of anger. In the silence that ensued each apostle reflected upon his personal hope in the national dream which centered on "the Messiah."
Way back in the times recorded in Genesis, Jacob had told his sons, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah until He comes to whom it belongs." strong medicine to those who smart under Roman rule and dream of a powerful free Israel.
In the book of numbers, Peter and the others had read countless times, "A star shall come forth out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel" and in second Samuel, "He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever." Meaning world leadership for Israel, for ever! At least that is what it had come to mean to a people in
Bondage. Had the time really come? Was Jesus really the Anointed One? Was this little band of men to be the first to welcome the long awaited messianic age? Jesus' response is significant both for what he says and for what he does not say. He does not deny the title of Messiah - but he conditions it in two ways. First, he forbids the disciples to tell anyone. The suggestion being that, the statement may be true, but not in the way it will be understood.
Jesus spoke of a suffering Messiah who would be betrayed and murdered. A messianic image that even Peter was not yet ready to accept.
The apostle’s vision of the Saviour or Messiah was that of a glorious king reigning in peace and prosperity and left no room for images of suffering and death. Therefore, Jesus could hardly be the Messiah. But, still, he had not denied it. Imagine their confusion!
Jesus, the Messiah, was saying to Peter and to the others, “Yes, I am the Messiah - the realization of the prophecies, though not of your interpretation of them. You see, I did not come so much to save you from others as from yourselves and I have come to save you for your Father who has prepared a place for you to come to when all is said and done. You see, you look for a messiah. I am not a messiah. I Am The Messiah.