Sunday, January 14, 2007



In Luke chapter 9:18-20 we come to a brief account of the interchange between Jesus and His disciples regarding the identity of Jesus. Up to this time Jesus was busy healing those who came to Him and teaching kingdom principles. This conversation came very close to the end of His mentoring time with these men. He had been with them for over 3 years and now the final exam was closing in.

We know from Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels that the setting for this interchange occurred at Caesarea Philippi. Jesus took His disciples away for a little retreat before going up to Jerusalem to face a most difficult time. This retreat was a time of preparation for Himself as well as for the disciples. Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer and also disclosing bit by bit what they were all about to face. Let’s listen in:

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" 
Peter answered, "God's Messiah."

NOTE the variety of answers to the question, “Who do the crowds say I am?” These answers are still present today.
FIRST—John the Baptist. John was a very powerful teacher, so people viewed Jesus as a great teacher in the spirit of John.

SECOND—Elijah. Elijah was a most impressive prophet in the history of the Jewish people. So, they viewed Jesus in the same way—a prophet who has a word for today from God.

THIRD—one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life. Jesus must be a reincarnation of an ancient prophet who has come back to life.

NOTE Jesus is seen as a great teacher, a prophet or maybe a reincarnated one. This speaks to our many cultures today. Some see Jesus as a teacher, a prophet or a product of reincarnation.

Also NOTE that Jesus doesn’t put these references down. I’ve come to realize that knowing Jesus is a progression—the more you hang out with Him, the more amazing and divine He becomes. This is a necessary progression that people must go through in order to embrace Jesus fully. I’m sure even within the band of the disciples they had come to know Jesus in the same way. Some connected Him with John the Baptist, others as a great prophet and still others wondering if Jesus was somehow reincarnated from an earlier time in history.

Then Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?” Peter steps to the line and gives the answer Jesus was looking for—the revelation that Jesus had been sent by God as God’s deliverer, God’s Messiah. Jesus had performed the messianic acts and wonders that the prophets described the Messiah doing. Jesus had made the claims that the prophets said He would say. Now, it was time for His disciples to really get it. Jesus was God’s Messiah.

Here’s what’s interesting to me. Even though Peter gave the right answer, still he hadn’t embraced Jesus’ identity for himself. In other words, it was still maybe a “factual” observation, but not yet of the heart and soul. Just as soon as Peter gave the proper answer, within a few days he was denying that he was a follower of this man, Jesus.

This goes to show that you cannot rest totally on your education or knowledge of the facts to transform your life. You must be dependent on the Spirit of God to make what you know alive in your heart. This is the Spirit of God’s work on the inside. No amount of theology or belief systems can transform your heart. No church or charismatic cleric can transform your heart. It’s only as you come to know Jesus that the Spirit of God does His work of illumination in your heart. Then and only then will you be given ears to hear and eyes to see.

What will you hear and what will you see? You will be able to hear and see Jesus and His kingdom working in and through you. As Jesus often says, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear.”