I don't recall exactly what I said, but whatever it was, it must have been a humdinger. There were approximately 20 women sitting around a small room full of tables. I was at the front of the room, teaching from the Word of God, specifically, Mary's Song as it is recorded in Luke. Some tiny fleck of revelation stirred in my soul then forced itself out of my mouth. The women dropped their jaws; one woman pulled her reading glasses off and dropped them on her Bible, which was spread open on the table before her. "Wow!" she mouthed.
I felt a rush of excitement. There is nothing in the world like seeing the faces of God's children when truth is revealed, especially when the truth is coming out of your own mouth.
I wonder if Peter felt like this when he made his two outstanding declarations of faith. With all the things he often said that caused the Lord to wonder about this fisherman He'd chosen, these two lines must have made His heart soar.
I know they do mine.
You Are The Christ
Jesus' ministry is well underway. He has preached all around Galilee. Fed thousands of people with tiny morsels of food. He has healed the sick, calmed a storm, and called out demons, forcing them into a herd of pigs destined for a long jump over a high cliff. He has prepared His disciples for ministry, even sending them out to minister in His name. He has cursed Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum and then gone head to head with the religious powers that be. He had taught in parables, walked on water, and heard of the death of his cousin, John the Baptist.
Surely tired, when Jesus and the Twelve came to Caesarea Philippi, He stopped to pray. (Luke 9:18)
Caesarea Philippi was a city located about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and at the base of the "Gray Haired Mountain," Mt. Hermon, which rises 9200 magnificent feet and is the highest point inside the country of Israel. In spite of the city's splendor, it was a place of ancient worship of Pan, the half-man half-goat god of fright who played a flute and demanded sacrifice. Later, overtaken by Rome and its influences, the city was dedicated to the glory of Rome - renamed for Tiberius Caesar and Herod's son, Philip - and became a place where men would cry, "Caesar is Lord."
But, not this day. No. This day would a new declaration would be made...and would be recorded for the ages.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." - Matthew 16: 13b-16
It seems that Peter had not a moment's hesitation. You are the One we have waited for since the beginning of time, he is in essence saying to Jesus. You are Messiah.
In his exposition of the Bible, John Gill (1697-1771) wrote that in this short statement of faith Peter said volumes. ...that there is a God, that there is but one God; that he is the living God, has life in himself, is the fountain of life to others, and by this is distinguishable from the idols of the Gentiles: that Jesus is the Christ, the Christ of God, the true Messiah, that was promised by God, prophesied of by all the prophets, from the beginning of the world, and expected by the people of God: a character that includes all his offices, of prophet, priest, and king, to which he is anointed by God; and that this Messiah was not a mere man, but a divine person, the Son of God; not by creation, as angels and men are, nor by adoption, as saints, nor by office, as magistrates, but by nature, being his own Son, his proper Son, the only begotten of the Father, of the same nature with him, being one with him, and equal to him.
To Whom Shall We Go?
John's gospel does not record the previous statement of Peter's, but it does record another one. As it happens, this verse is my favorite in the New Testament scriptures.
Jesus and Peter had recently had their test of faith moment while walking on the Sea of Galilee. Peter is, no doubt, still moved not only by having gotten out of the boat and actually walking atop the turbulent waves of water, but also by having been caught and carried back to the boat by the Master when his faith became too weak for the moment. (But that's another story.)
Now teaching again "on the other side of the lake," (Capernaum) Jesus shares with the people whom He'd recently fed with a few loaves of bread. This time the people came in search of eternal food; they were spiritually ready - or so they thought - to hear more of the teachings of the Christ.
But these lessons would not come easy. Jesus began His series of "I AM" statements with "I am the bread of life." (John 6:35)
I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
The people began to grumble. Good heavens! Wasn't this the carpenter's son? Who did He think He was, declaring Himself to be the Great I Am?
Peter and the other disciples stood nearby, listening as Jesus spoke firmly to the group. Ah, yes. When they were physically hungry and Jesus miraculously made enough food to feed four thousand...well, that was one thing. But now, spiritually hungry, He declares that HE can be feasted upon and one will never, ever grow hungry again. Well, that's a completely different story.
Flesh to eat??? Is this was Jesus had just declared? The bread was His flesh and He would - what did He say? - He would give His life for the world?
Can't you just see Peter's expression? Perhaps he is exchanging glances with John or John's brother, James. After all, they were the inner circle of the inner circle.
Has our Lord lost His mind?
Should we slip quietly away; avoid the mob?
Uh, Peter, isn't your house fairly close by?
Still, Peter may have thought, let's think about everything that's happened recently. What we've seen and heard, no one else has. What we know, no one else does. So, if Jesus says He is the bread of Life...then surely He is. If He says His blood is real drink...then, so be it. (6:55)
The blood. Life, Jewish law taught, was in the blood. Nothing with the blood in it was to be partaken of. This teaching was truly hard to take. (6:60)
The crowd began to disperse. Those who'd been following Him with fervor became cold and distant, slipping away from the great synagogue in the little fishing village. As Jesus and the Twelve watched their popularity slipping away (though it was of no surprise to Jesus-6:64), Jesus turned to the Twelve.
Perhaps Peter's heart hurt for his beloved Messiah. His friend. The One he knew that he knew that he knew had come from the Father above. And, perhaps Jesus looked directly at Peter as He said, "You do not want to leave too, do you?" (6:67)
The Scriptures do not indicate that Peter even skipped a beat before answering. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." (6:68,69)
Questions for Personal or Group Study
1. Who do you say Jesus is?
2. If challenged, could you defend your position?
3. The Messiah was prophesized about hundreds of times in the Old Testament. Check out just a few of them:
- He would be born of a virgin (Prophesized: Isaiah 7:14; Fulfilled: Matthew 1:21-23)
- Of the tribe of Judah/of the house of David (Prophesized: Genesis 49:10; Fulfilled: Luke 3:23, 33;/Prophesized: 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Fulfilled: Matthew 1:1)
- Born in Bethlehem (Prophesized: Micah 5:2, Fulfilled: Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4
- Would perform miracles (Prophesized: Isaiah 35:5-6; Fulfilled: Matthew 9:35
- Would preach good news (Isaiah 61:1; Fulfilled: Luke 4:14-21)
- Would cleanse the Temple (Prophesized: Malachi 3:1; Fulfilled: Matthew 21:12-13)
- Would first present Himself as King 173,880 days from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Prophesized: Daniel 9:25; Fulfilled: Matthew 21:4-11)
- Would enter Jerusalem as a king on a donkey (Prophesized: Zechariah 9:9; Fulfilled: Matthew 21:4-9)
- Die a humiliating death (Prophesized: Psalm 22; Isaiah 53 Fulfilled: Matthew 27:38, for one of many)
- Would rise from the dead!! (Prophesized: Psalm 16:10; Fulfilled: Mark 16:6; Acts 2:31)
- Ascend into Heaven (Prophesized: Psalm 68:18; Fulfilled: Acts 1:9)
4. Where is your Caesarea Philippi? (Or, place where it seems gods are worshipped)
5. Do you declare the Lord there? If not, how might you be able to begin?
6. Do you consider the teaching of Jesus to be hard?
7. When the going gets tough, do you want to tuck tail and run or do you, like Peter, wonder where else one might go and be with God?
8. Remembering that life in "in the blood," take a closer look at what Peter had to say in John 6. "Life," as Peter used it, is "zoe," or "full life with God." This is different than "bios," which means "physical life." Peter has fully grasped the teachings of Jesus in vs. 54. What is your concept of eternal life vs. physical life? How do you live them separately? Together?
Peter said, "We believe and know." To know (Ginosko) is to learn and perceive of a teaching. Write down why you believe and know that Jesus is the Holy One of God.
Award-winning national speaker, Eva Marie Everson's work includes Intimate Moments with God and Intimate Encounters with God (Cook). She is the author of Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows and Shadow of Light. (Barbour Fiction) She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at www.EvaMarieEverson.com