"Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life." (Luke 9:19)
After the second question, Peter answered:
"God's Messiah."What we have here are two descriptions of Jesus' identity, the first of which is coming from public opinion and the second of which is coming from Jesus' closest disciples. We can assume that Peter was speaking for the other close disciples here because he answered the question and no one disagreed.
We can also know from Jesus' response to Peter's answer that Jesus agreed with Peter:
Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. (Luke 9:21)So we must accept this second identification of Jesus.
They did not say that Jesus was God
Note that Jesus' disciples did not say that Jesus was God - as promoted by sectarian teachers. He says clearly: "God's Messiah."
This phrase is taken from the Greek phrase, Χριστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ.
The Greek phrase τοῦ θεοῦ translates to "of God," while the word Χριστός (Christos) translates to "Messiah" or "Christ" - and these also literally refer to "God's anointed one."
The word "Messiah" is directly taken from the Hebrew word משיח (Mashiyach), which refers to "Messiah" but also directly translates to "God's anointed" or "anointed one."
In fact, we find clearly that the Supreme Being identified His "anointed" or "anointed one" as someone who represents Him.
In other words, the reference משיח (Mashiyach) in Hebrew and Χριστός (Christos) both refer to God's representative - one who is selected or anointed by God to represent Him - and thus God's medium.
This is evidenced clearly in the Old Testament. Here are some of the clear statements (and quotes from God's instructions) regarding His anointed - משיח (Mashiyach):
[God speaking]"Aaron's sacred garments will belong to his descendants so that they can be anointed and ordained in them." (Exodus 29:29)
[God speaking]"Anoint them just as you anointed their father, so they may serve Me as priests. Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue throughout their generations." (Exodus 40:15)
[God speaking]"The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments" (Lev. 16:32)
Those were the names of Aaron's sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests. (Numbers 3:3)
[God speaking]"I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in My heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before My anointed one always." (1 Samuel 2:35)These verses indicate that "Anointed one" or "Messiah" is a role, not one individual. Rather, there is a lineage of Messiahs - anointed ones - priests over the centuries, whose service was to represent the Supreme Being and "serve Me as priests."
Note that many of the references to "father"/"son" in so many instances in the Old Testament are better translated to "teacher"/"student" as indicated in common Hebrew usage, and even to this day, as priests are typically referred to as "father."
Why weren't these Biblical references, translated to "anointed" not translated to "Messiah" as they obviously refer to by the Hebrew - משיח (Mashiyach)?
Because ecclesiastical scribes in later centuries had no entrance into those loving relationships between God and His representatives over the centuries - so they created the notion of one single Messiah that would appear sometime in the future.
As to the language of the Scriptures - one of the misconceptions is that the reference to Messiah or Anointed is singular, and this has been confused with the notion that there is and will be only one Messiah.
Messiah is a role
Let's use an example - the President of the U.S. When people refer to anyone serving as President, they refer to him in the singular, almost as if there has only been one: "The President." If someone refers to the current serving President they will say "The President."
They might say of him: "The President presented an award."
They might also refer to the office: "The Congress shall pass a bill and send it to the President."
These references appear that there is only one President, but in fact, many people have occupied the post of President of the U.S., and therefore, the seemingly singular reference is to the title or the post, rather than a specific person.
It is the same with Messiah. The word is used in the singular because it is a distinctive post that is only given to those whom the Supreme Being selects and authorizes. It is not to be taken lightly, in other words, and it ultimately refers to God's authority.
Messiah is not a paid professional position
And it is not as if someone can simply pay tuition, pass some exams and get a seminary degree and therefore become Messiah - or be elected into the position by political election. It is a selection that can only come from the Supreme Being.
This is referenced here in Luke as Peter states: Χριστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ - literally, "Messiah of God" or "Anointed of God." This refers to the post being selected by the Supreme Being only.
This is also clearly identifying that Jesus is occupying a post that is most precious: God's representative. A closely-held, loving servant of the Supreme Being.
One might say this understanding takes Jesus too lightly because he shared this post of "Messiah of God" with others before him.
Yet Jesus himself evidences the same authority and post of his predecessors by the fact that Jesus often quoted the teachings of David, Isaiah, Moses and others - those Messiahs before him - in his own teachings. Why would Jesus quote other teachers before him? Why "stoop" to quote them if he were the only Messiah?
Because Jesus isn't the only Messiah. There is nothing in the Scriptures that states he is. It is only the interpretation of certain ecclesiastical institutions whose motivation is to put forth that their sect or institution is the only authentic sect or institution - while the others are all disrepute.
The error of a single Messiah of God is evidenced by the fact that while ecclesiastical sectarian institutions say Jesus is the only Messiah, ecclesiastical Jewish institutions - who are reading essentially the same Scriptures - say the Messiah is yet to come.
How ridiculous is that? This very debate confirms this notion of a single Messiah is nothing but speculative interpretation.
Meanwhile the evidence pointing to the fact that God had various "anointed Messiahs" over the centuries is clear - not only from the texts above, but many others.
And why would the Supreme Being - the Creator and Master of this universe and many others - have only one representative? Is He that limited? That He can only have one person represent Him? Any of us can have multiple representatives - and the President of the U.S. can have a representative for each and every country. But God can only have one representative?
It is utter nonsense that the Supreme Being can only have one son or representative.
God's representative is united with God
Yet it is also true that the role of Messiah is singular because the Supreme Being is singular - God is an individual. He can expand Himself without limit - but He is still an individual.
And therefore, those whom God selects to represent Him are unified - they are of the same mind and the same essential teaching. They have the same goal - to please the Supreme Being. And therefore, their teachings are identical in objective and purpose, though some of their particular instructions may change with the circumstances of their particular society, culture and time.
Their teachings do not change because the Supreme Being's love for us never changes. God wants the same thing for those of us stuck in the physical world of self-centeredness:
He wants us to come home to Him. He wants each of us to be re-united with Him within our unique original loving service relationship with Him.
This is why both Moses' and Jesus' - along with all the other Messiahs' - most important instruction has been and always will be to:
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:5, Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27)