“Jesus and his disciples went on to see the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am!’
They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others one of the prophets.’
‘But who do you say I am?’
Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ.’
[Then] Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.”
The conclusion of the Old Testament to the writing of the gospels was a period of roughly 400 years. During that time, God was silent as far as the writing of Scripture. However, there were many books written during that period that help us to understand the mindset of the Jewish people. The Jews had been living under the rule of the Persians, then the Greeks, and now the Romans. All they had experienced for nearly 700 years was slavery. Now, they were anticipating the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ, the One who would deliver them and become their ruling King. According to William Barclay, the Messiah was expected to be the most destructive conqueror in history, smashing his enemies into utter extinction. Then the dispersed Jews would be gathered from all over the world into their rightful city, Jerusalem.
So, this was the atmosphere at the time of Jesus’ arrival on the scene. You can understand why so many of the Jews could not accept the idea of their Messiah being a lowly carpenter from Nazareth. Knowing all of this, Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” not because He didn’t know what everyone thought, but because He really wanted to ask the disciples the same question.
As you can see, most of the people did not believe He was really the Messiah! Jesus then turned the spotlight on the disciples by asking, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” To which Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” In Matthew’s account we learn how Peter understood this truth. Matthew 16:17 says, “Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.‘”
When it comes to genuine faith, God is the only One who can give us spiritual sight. Our spiritual eyes must be touched by the Holy Spirit in order to see and understand who Jesus really is. We see this truth so clearly in John 3, when Jesus encounters a religious teacher, Nicodemus. Here is part of their conversation: Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely, he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’”
Here is the bottom line; if you want to see Jesus for who He really is, then you must first be born again. To be born again, you must hear the gospel. This is what the disciples still needed to understand. So, Jesus began to teach them more in Mark 8:31-33: “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’”
What is the gospel? Paul gives it to us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6: “For what I received (the gospel) I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and then He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time…” This is the gospel: Jesus died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised from the dead on the third day, and then He appeared to the Twelve disciples, and then, to five hundred. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is what you must believe if you want to be saved and go to heaven when you die. It is that simple.
So, who do you say Jesus is? I say He truly is the Son of God. He is the great I AM! He is the Promised Messiah! He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And, He is my Lord and my God!
 William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 197.