Would you recognize Jesus if He were standing right in front of you? If so, how would you recognize Him? Would you consider Him a wise teacher or a prophet? Would you recognize Him as the Lord, your master, the sacrifice who saves?
When we recognize people, our minds—consciously and unconsciously—give that person a “title” of sorts. We think in categories: “There’s my friend Emma,” “That’s Beverly—she goes to my church” or “Hey, that’s Ms. Stevens, my chemistry teacher.” Categorizing people is part of the mind’s recognition process. It tells us how we know that person and what our relationship to them is—friend, fellow church-goer, teacher, student, etc.
In Matthew 16:13-17 and Mark 8:27-30, we find an important question of recognition: Who is Jesus? More specifically, who do the disciples think Jesus is?
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then He asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because My Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.” —Matthew 16:13-17 (NLT)
Ah, good old Peter—the disciples could always count on him to blunder ahead and answer Jesus’s most awkward questions. Can you imagine being one of the disciples in that moment? How are you supposed to answer that question? It’s Jesus! He performs miracles, knows the Scriptures inside and out, loves and forgives people—He’s awesome! On the other hand, government officials don’t really like Him, and the religious leaders, the guys who taught you the Scriptures as you grew up, can’t stand Him.
So if you’re a disciple, how are you supposed to answer that question? “Um…you’re the cool guy that all the Pharisees hate?” I imagine the disciples were grateful and relieved when Peter saved them from having to answer that question. I know I would’ve been.
There was probably an awkward pause after Jesus asked the question, but finally Peter answers Him, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus wasn’t some prophet like Elijah or Jeremiah. He is the one they prophesied about. Joseph and Mary might have raised Jesus, but He is the Son of God, present before creation. He is the one who will restore Israel at His appointed time. He’s kind of a big deal and this time Peter’s answer is right!
Jesus calls Peter “blessed” because as sinners, we can’t recognize Jesus for who He is without the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knows that Peter can only recognize Him properly because the Holy Spirit has revealed to him who Jesus really is. Even when we come to God for the first time, it’s the Holy Spirit who shows us our sin, shows us who Jesus is and opens our eyes to see our need for a Savior.
Girls, how do you recognize Jesus?
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. —John 1:14 (NIV)
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