“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.””
When Jesus asked His disciples who people think He is, He got some answers that are remarkably familiar with things people say in our day about Christ:
Some people believed Jesus was just a really good man. A man who was “in God’s good books” so to speak. But if that’s all He is, He is no more than John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a good man. In fact, Jesus Himself said, “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” But John wasn’t a worker of miracles. In fact, Scripture does not record John the Baptist doing any miracle or participating in any wonder, save the wonder of God’s Voice during Jesus’ baptism. In that regard, John the Baptist isn’t any different than any of us. It was only John’s devout relationship with God that made him qualitatively different than anyone alive today.
Some believed that Jesus was Elijah. Elijah was a unique prophet, in that he did not physically die, but was taken up to heaven. Through him, God brought about the three-year drought during King Ahab’s time. Elijah even ministered across cultural barriers when God provided through him for the widow of Zarephath with an unending supply of flour and oil during the famine, and later raised her son from the dead. It was Elijah who organized the great show-down against the idolaters at the top of Mount Carmel and prayed fire down from heaven upon the altar and sacrifice. It was Elijah who prayed rain upon the land after that incident, who was fed by angels while on the run for 40 days and nights in the wilderness, and who prayed fire down upon the soldiers sent to take him in – not once, but twice! It would be believable that Jesus was Elijah, except that Jesus did not return down from heaven to Israel before He started His ministry – everyone knew He was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth.
Some believed that Jesus was Jeremiah or another prophet. Jeremiah was the most misunderstood man of his day. While speaking for God from his youth with a demonstrable passion and intimate relationship with God, Jeremiah failed to mobilize the nation, and is best remembered for his lament over the nation. Yet Jeremiah also was responsible for giving the nation a conscious, by which they persevered though the exile. Perhaps Jesus was simply the same. Certainly, Jesus was prophesying the destruction of the nation on account of their falling away from God just as Jeremiah had done.
But of course, Jesus is more than any of these. More than John the Baptist, more than Elijah and more than Jeremiah. Jesus is the fulfillment of all three and more. The witness of Himself and His Father was that He was God’s Son, not the reincarnation of a former prophet.
The disciple of Christ knows that, even if all around the people do not!
Jesus was God spelling himself out in language humanity could understand.S.D. Gordon
It is impossible to know and meditate on Jesus’ identity without worshipping Him.