"When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am? So they said, Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, But who do you say that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:13-16).
Public opinion about Jesus Christ was mixed; His Divinity was unknown to many. If you had heard this lowly Galilean carpenter in the first century, would you have believed Him to be the Son of God? Before you answer that question, remember that our Lord's own "brothers did not believe Him" (John 7:1-5). If you, like Peter, were willing to admit our Lord's Deity, upon what basis would you have made your determination? What evidence would you use?
When Jesus commended Peter for his affirmation of faith, our Lord said the Father had revealed to Peter that Christ was "the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:17). Have you ever wondered how the Father revealed this fact to Peter? There are several ways Peter could have known about the Deity of Christ. Let's look at a few of these ways.
The Old Testament contains well over 300 prophecies concerning the Messiah. All of these prophecies were made at least 400 years before the birth of Christ. No one else in all the world could have fulfilled these prophecies.
It appears the gospel of Matthew was primarily written to prove that in Jesus Christ of Nazareth was the fulfillment of all Messianic prophecy. Matthew often records minor events in the life of Christ and then quotes from the prophets to show that His actions were done to "fulfill" prophecy. Here are just a few examples:
While John the Baptist was in the wilderness, the Jews sent priests and Levites to him to find out who he was (John 1:19-34). John confessed he was not the Christ, Elijah, nor "the Prophet" (cf. Deut. 18:18). After the baptism of Christ, John said, "I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God'" (John 1:33,34). Later, when Christ went up to Jerusalem, He told the Jews, "You have sent to John, and he has bore witness to the truth" (John 5:33).
In his book on the Holy Spirit, brother Ferrell Jenkins makes this observation: "The baptism of Jesus qualified Him in these particulars: 1. 'It was the sources of His own endowment of Power for the endurance of temptation, for teaching, for casting out demons, and healing the sick, for His sufferings and death, for His resurrection and ascension' (ISBE, 1411a). 2. It qualified Him to bestow the Holy Spirit on the disciples (Mt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16; Jn. 20:22; Acts 1:5)." (The Finger Of God, p. 10).
"Now Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them" (Matt. 4:23,24).
As Jesus visited the 240 towns of Galilee, the caravans passing through the country carried reports of His works into the surrounding regions of "Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan" (Matt. 4:25).
Jesus said His miracles were a greater witness to His Divinity than John himself (John 5:31-36). This is because no one in history had ever claimed to be the Messiah and had the ability to perform genuine miracles. The prophets of old were able to perform the miracles, but never claimed to be the Christ. Other men claimed to be the Messiah, but could not perform genuine miracles. While predicting the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus said that "many will come in my name, saying, 'I am Christ'" (Matt. 24:5). Flavius Josephus, a Jewish priest and historian, tells of many individuals who claimed to be the Messiah, including one who had over 30,000 followers (The Wars Of The Jews, 2:3:5).
Peter knew that at the baptism of Christ the Father spoke from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17).
On the mount of transfiguration, Peter would see a bright cloud overshadow them, and the Father would again testify of His Son, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" (Matt. 17:5). "This command contains the chief significance of the entire scene. Spoken in the presence of Moses and Elijah, it gave Jesus that pre-eminence which a son has over servants. He is to be heard. His words have pre-eminence over those of the lawgiver and the prophet (Heb. 1:1,2). Peter recognized Jesus as thus honored by this voice (II Pet. 1:16-18)." (J. W. McGarvey, The Fourfold Gospel, p. 420).
Though our Lord had not yet gone to the cross when He asked His disciples about His identity, we can now look back to the resurrection as the crowning act in proving the Divinity of Christ. The apostle Paul opens the Roman letter by pointing to "Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:3-4).
The very foundation of the gospel rests upon the Lord's resurrection from the grave (1 Cor. 15:3-4). In fact, if there was no resurrection, "then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain" (1 Cor. 15:14).
"God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they" (Hebrews 1:1-4).
Since Christ is God's final spokesman, if we neglect His message, we have missed the great salvation "which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him" (Heb. 2:3).