Did the Disciples Think Jesus Was the Messiah?

The question of whether or not the disciples of Jesus believed that he was the Messiah is a controversial one, with different opinions held by scholars and theologians. While some argue that the disciples fully recognized Jesus as the long-awaited Savior, others maintain that they did not fully understand his role until after his death and resurrection.

What is a Messiah

Before we delve into this question, let’s first define what we mean by “Messiah.” In Judaism, the term refers to a future savior who will usher in an era of peace and justice. The Old Testament contains numerous prophecies about this figure, including his lineage and specific actions he will take.

The Disciples’ Beliefs

The Gospels recount several instances where the disciples express their belief in Jesus as the Messiah. For example, in Matthew 16:16-17, Simon Peter declares, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Similarly, in John 1:41, Andrew tells his brother Simon that they have found “the Messiah,” referring to Jesus.

However, some scholars argue that these claims were made after Jesus’ death and resurrection. They point out that while Jesus was still alive, many Jews were expecting a political leader who would overthrow Roman rule and establish a Jewish kingdom. It’s possible that some of Jesus’ followers initially saw him as this type of Messiah rather than as a spiritual savior.

Jesus’ Teachings

Another factor to consider is how Jesus himself talked about his role as the Messiah. In Mark 8:31-33, he tells his disciples that he must suffer and die before rising again. This contradicts many Jews’ expectations of what the Messiah would do.

Additionally, Jesus often spoke in parables and used indirect language, which could have contributed to confusion among his followers. For example, in John 2:19-21, he says, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The disciples did not understand that he was referring to his own death and resurrection.

The Aftermath

Regardless of whether or not the disciples fully understood Jesus’ role as the Messiah during his lifetime, it’s clear that they came to believe after his death and resurrection. The book of Acts describes how they spread the message of Jesus throughout the world, even facing persecution for their beliefs. This would not have happened if they did not truly believe that Jesus was the promised Savior.


In conclusion, there is evidence both for and against the idea that the disciples thought Jesus was the Messiah during his lifetime. However, ultimately it is their post-resurrection actions and teachings that solidify their belief in him as the long-awaited Savior.