Sixteen Inches Off: Matthew 16:13-16
“13) Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14) And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15) He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16) Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew‬ ‭16‬:‭13‬-‭16‬ ‭
Jesus now retreats about forty miles north of the Sea of Galilee to Caesarea Philippi. They most likely followed the head waters up toward Mt Hermon. It was a region full of paganism. Mark and Luke also record this story and the conversation.
According to Mark 8:27, Jesus had this conversation with the with the disciples while they were “on the way.” As a good teacher, Jesus took advantage of the travels to question His disciples. Everyday life was His classroom.
His first question was general; “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” In other words; “What are the opinion polls saying?”
People definitely held Him in high esteem. Some were saying John the Baptist. Others guessed Him to be Elijah. Others compared Him to Jeremiah. Still others just placed Him among the prophets.
Maybe they saw in Him the authority of John, the power of Elijah, the passion of Jeremiah and the message of a prophet. Everyone had an opinion. Jesus was the topic of most conversations.
But then Jesus became personal. It doesn’t matter what others think, the important question was the essay answered by His disciples. Vs 15, “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’”
Without a moment of hesitation, Peter answered; “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” He nailed it! The phase; “Thou art the Christ”, identified Jesus as the Messiah. The phase; “the living God”, distinguished the God of Israel from the non living idols in this pagan region. Peter rightly identified Jesus a the Son of God.
Before we venture into the second part of this conversation, I have a question for you; “What is your opinion of Jesus?” “Who do you say that He is?” This is one of the most important questions you will ever answer. It is crucial for salvation.
Many world religions and false cults view Jesus as a prophet. That is true of Hinduism, Islam and even the Jehovah Witnesses. In other words, he was a devoutly religious man. He may have even pointed people toward God, but He was not the Son of God, nor was He Deity.
Peter’s answer to this question was important, but in John 21:15-17; Jesus quizzed Peter even deeper. This time He asked Peter three times; “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was exposed. He had the right head knowledge, but Jesus did not have first place in his heart. There is a huge difference.
It has been said that many people miss heaven by sixteen inches. That is basically the distance from your head to your heart. You can have right theology but no personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He is neither your Savior nor your Lord. You remain lord of your own life.
You must settle this issue. You must repent of your sinful ways and invite Jesus into your life. Stop holding Him at arms length. There is a huge difference between having religious beliefs and being a born-again Christian. It is not only the difference between the heart and the head, it is also the difference between heaven and hell.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global