And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” -Mark 8:27-29
I want to unpack Peter’s statement here that Jesus is the Christ. There are two questions we need to answer; 1) What does Peter mean by saying that Jesus is Christ, and 2) What does it mean to us that Jesus is the Christ.
Peter could not possibly have known all that his confession implied. None of the disciples had any idea. In the very next passage (verses 31-33) Jesus begins to explain, without parable or illustration but plainly, that he will be crucified and the disciples have no idea what he is talking about. Twice in Mark 9 they simply do not understand. Mark even says they did not understand and were afraid to ask him. So what was Peter even saying by testifying that Jesus was the Christ?
Christ is the Greek word for “anointed one.” It means the same thing as Messiah in Hebrew. Peter recognized that Jesus was the chosen one of God. He was the Messiah that the Hebrew prophets had promised would come. Now the disciples didn’t understand what type of Messiah Jesus was to be, but they would understand later. For instance, Peter might have been familiar with this passage from Isaiah:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be uponhis shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore. -Is 9:6-7
Peter could see how this prophesy might be fulfilled by Jesus. But he wasn’t aware of the his crucifixion and death. He may have connected the above verses from Isaiah with Jesus, but not this passage:
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejectedby men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed. -Is 53:2-5
We see Jesus in this prophesy, but Peter and the other apostles could not; yet. After the death, burial and resurrection had taken place, it would make sense. Once the Holy Spirit opened their spiritual eyes, all of Jesus words were called to remembrance, and then they understood. None of them could understand in Mark 8 and 9, but on the Day of Pentecost Peter preached these words in Acts 2:
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
To Peter, confessing Jesus was the Christ was to understand he was the anointed one sent by God. Many had witnessed the voice from the cloud and the Spirit of God descending when Jesus was baptized. He did not understand, at that time, everything that being the Christ meant. He would in time.
That’s about all that I can do in one blog post. When I preached this sermon, I went on to answer the second question, what does it mean to us, by going to John 17 and Hebrews 4 and 5 to illustrate Jesus as the perfect High Priest. For us, Jesus is Christ means that he became the sacrifice for our sins and now ever lives to make intercession.