Did the Disciples Know Who Jesus?

The question of whether the disciples knew who Jesus was is a topic that has been debated by scholars and theologians for centuries. Some argue that the disciples had a clear understanding of Jesus’ identity from the beginning, while others believe that their understanding evolved over time as they spent more time with him. In this article, we’ll explore the different perspectives on this question and examine some of the evidence that supports each viewpoint.

Early Beliefs About Jesus

According to the Gospel accounts, Jesus began his public ministry by calling his disciples to follow him. The first disciples he called were fishermen named Simon Peter and Andrew, followed by James and John. These men left their jobs and families to follow Jesus, indicating that they believed he was someone special.

As Jesus began to perform miracles and teach about God’s kingdom, his reputation grew. People began to wonder if he might be the long-awaited Messiah who would deliver Israel from Roman oppression. Some of the early followers of Jesus believed that he was indeed the Messiah, including Peter who declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

Confusion Amongst Disciples

However, not all of Jesus’ followers were convinced of his identity at this point. In fact, there were times when even his closest disciples seemed confused about who he was.

For example, in Mark 8:27-30, Jesus asked his disciples who people thought he was. They replied that some thought he was John the Baptist or Elijah come back from the dead.

Then Jesus asked them directly, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” It was Peter who answered with his famous confession of faith mentioned earlier.

Another incident that shows confusion amongst disciples is when James and John asked Jesus if they could sit at his right hand and left hand in his kingdom (Mark 10:35-45). This request shows that they still had a limited understanding of Jesus’ mission and were more concerned with their own positions of power.

Understanding Evolves Over Time

Despite these moments of confusion, it’s clear that the disciples’ understanding of Jesus’ identity evolved over time as they spent more time with him. They witnessed his miracles and heard his teachings, which gradually revealed more about who he was.

For example, in John’s Gospel, there are several instances where Jesus refers to himself as “I AM,” a title that echoes God’s self-revelation to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). This title would have been highly significant to Jewish listeners who understood it as a claim to deity. The fact that Jesus used this title to refer to himself indicates that he believed he was divine, a fact that his disciples would have eventually come to understand.

The Ultimate Revelation

The ultimate revelation of Jesus’ identity came after his death and resurrection. Following his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples numerous times and explained how the Scriptures had foretold his coming and his mission. He also commissioned them to go and make disciples of all nations, indicating that he was not just the Messiah for Israel but for the whole world.

It was only after these post-resurrection appearances that the disciples fully grasped who Jesus was and what he had accomplished through his death and resurrection. They became bold witnesses for him, proclaiming his message throughout the known world despite persecution and opposition.


In conclusion, while there may have been moments of confusion amongst the disciples about who Jesus was during his earthly ministry, their understanding evolved over time as they spent more time with him and witnessed his miracles and teachings. Ultimately, it was only after Jesus’ death and resurrection that they fully grasped who he was and what he had accomplished. The fact that they were willing to die for their belief in him is a testament to the depth of their understanding and the truth of Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God.