When then our Lord inquires, "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?" He is not merely asking whether men admit what the title Son of Man itself imports; that is to say, the truth of His humanity or the truth of His Messiahship. The point of His question is this: What is He besides being the Son of Man? As the Son of Man He is Messiah; but what is the personality which sustains the Messianic office? As the Son of Man He is truly human; but what is the Higher Nature with which this emphatic claim to humanity is in tacit but manifest contrast? What is He in the seat and root of His Being? Is His Manhood a robe which He has thrown around a higher form of pre-existent life, or is it His all? Has He been in existence some thirty years at most, or are the august proportions of His life only to be meted out by the days of eternity? "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?"
The disciples reply that at that time, in the public opinion of Galilee, our Lord was, at the least, a preternatural personage. On this point there was, it would seem, a general consent. The cry of a petty local envy which had been raised at Nazareth, "Is not this the carpenter's Son?" did not fairly represent the matured or prevalent opinion of the people. The people did not suppose that Jesus was in truth merely one of themselves, only endued with larger powers and with a finer religious instinct. They thought that His personality reached back somehow into the past of their own wonderful history. They took Him for a saint of ancient days who had been reinvested with a bodily form. He was the great expected, miracle working Elijah, or He was the disappointed prophet who had followed His country to its grave at the Captivity, or He was the recently martyred preacher and ascetic John the Baptist, or He was, at any rate, one of the order which for four hundred years had been lost to Israel; He was one of the prophets.
"Thou Art the Christ, the Son of the Living God"
Our Lord turns from these public misconceptions to the judgment of that little body which was already the nucleus of His future Church: "But whom say ye that I am?" Peter replies, in the name of the other disciples, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." In marked contrast to the popular hesitation which refused to recognize explicitly the justice of the claim so plainly put forward by the assumption of the title "Son of Man," the Apostle confesses, "Thou art the Christ." But Peter advances a step beyond this confession, and replies to the original question of our Lord, when he adds, "The Son of the Living God."
The Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. H.P. Liddon. Pickering & Inglis LTD. 29 Ludgate Hill, London, England. E.C.4 No date. Pages 12 and 13.