"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
What distinguishes Jesus' assembled people from every other group in the world? Jesus' assembled people (or church as it is translated here) is distinguished by our belief that Jesus is the anointed one, the very Son of God, sent by the Living God in order to save His people. Anyone who believes this in their heart, soul and mind and naturally exhibits this belief through their strength is a member of Christ's body, His church. Anyone who believes that Jesus is something other than the anointed one, the very Son of God, sent by the Living God in order to save His people are not members of Christ's body, His church.
Since Jesus began his ministry, people have always debated the identity of Christ. This man's authoritative teachings and his miraculous power lent itself to that ultimate question. How important is this question? Apparently, Jesus thinks it's the ultimate question. It is the Kingdom of God citizenship test.
What crazy answers people discussed. The recently beheaded John the Baptist (as Herod believed)? A prophet that lived over 700 years prior like Elijah or Jeremiah? There are many wise sounding people who proclaim their belief in Jesus as a prophet or a good teacher alongside Confucius, Buddha, Moses, Muhammad, etc... To classify Jesus in this way is to believe that Jesus offers sound teaching and advice, but you can easily find this kind of wisdom elsewhere.
To believe that Jesus is the anointed one is to believe that our Creator had a real purpose in sending Him. To believe that Jesus is the anointed one sent by the Living God to save His people is to believe that we need rescuing and Jesus is the one sent to do the rescuing. To believe that Jesus is the Son of the Living God is to believe that we can come to know our Father in heaven through this anointed, sent Son who has a unique relationship to His Father in heaven.
He is not a zombie prophet. He is not just a teacher. He is not just a healer. He is THE teacher. He is THE healer. He is THE messiah, the anointed one sent by the living God to save His people.
When Peter says this, Jesus uses the term translated church for the first time. He acknowledges that Peter is blessed. He acknowledges Peter's earthly father, but says that this knowledge was revealed to him by his Father in heaven. Jesus worked tirelessly in revealing who he was to his disciples. He taught. He healed. He blessed. He forgave. But, he never said to his disciples, "I am the messiah, the Son of the Living God." Apparently, they had to come to that conclusion by their heavenly Father as they witnessed his Son's work. And, his instructions to his disciples suggest that their friends and neighbours had to come to believe he is the messiah in the same way as well.
So how much of what we believe is God's revelation and how much is our own free will? I don't know. To me, it's like asking how do we know when to breathe or how does our body know what to do with the food we eat? It's not important to know how exactly it works. Sometimes, we just need to rejoice that it works. Because coming to the belief of who Jesus is is everything. That belief is the seed in our hearts that changes us from the inside out.
"This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
What about you? Who do you say I am?