We can see from the passage that Jesus asked his disciples regarding opinions people had of him. His question assumes that they would know, which means that he was aware that they had opportunities to find out. We are not to assume that Jesus was ignorant regarding their opinions, so we must deduce that he asked the question to test his disciples. It is not hard to say that Jesus expected his disciples to be informed about public opinion. And there is no reason why he should not expect the same of us.
The Saviour called himself the Son of Man. There used to be an idea that this title referred to his humanity and that the title ‘Son of God’ referred to his deity. That is not what the title ‘Son of man’ means. Instead it is an Old Testament title for the promised Messiah. One place to see where it is used of Jesus is in the Book of Daniel in a prophecy about the Messiah receiving a kingdom from God the Father (Dan. 7:13-14).
In that vision, the Son of Man comes to the Ancient of Days, which is a title of God the Father. It is a prophecy of Jesus appearing there after his ascension, and he is there to receive the reward due to him for his work on the cross. The reward is the bestowal of universal authority, of the assurance of subjects, and of the permanence of his kingdom. Jesus’ disciples should have known about that promise, even although they did not yet understand the significance of the cross.
It is clear that people had a high regard for Jesus – they thought that he was a prophet. They probably came to this conclusion because of the teaching role that Jesus engaged in. Yet their assessment fell far short of who Jesus actually is. We are familiar with something similar happening today. Many people can speak of Jesus in positive ways connected to him being an example and being a teacher of religious behaviour. Yet that is not enough. There is much more to appreciate about Jesus, and those other details are essential to hold if we wish to be regarded as genuine disciples.
Peter had greater understanding of Jesus than did the public in general. But how much did he now know? The passage tells us and we will think tomorrow about what he said.