“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist but others Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.'”
~ Matthew 16.13-17, NRSV
This story reminds me that there is often a stark contrast between what people believe about us and who God says that we are. It also reminds me of why Jesus is the Master Teacher. He is omniscient and “the truth”; yet, he asks the disciples a question and waits for an answer (John 14.6). “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
Jesus asked his disciples to tell him what others were saying about him and they had plenty of answers. They offered the reports from the rumor mill which suggested that Jesus could be one of several people– John the Baptist, Elijah or perhaps, Jeremiah. And if not either of these three men, then “one of the prophets.” They were familiar with and well- versed in what others were saying about Jesus.
But, there is an troubling silence, a doubtful silence, an empty silence that falls upon them when he asked them who they believe that he is. They did not raise their hands quickly. In fact, they don’t speak but only Peter replies, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter declares that Jesus is not one who comes to proclaim the coming of the Messiah but that he is the one of which the prophets spoke. That’s a huge difference. But, how does he know?
“Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father in heaven,” Jesus says to Peter. Jesus reminds us that there are some things that people do not know about us. And it does not matter the amount of time they have spent with us or the relational proximity. It does not matter how many people are saying it or if no one is saying it at all.
Our identity in Christ and with God is revealed. It is not something that is passed down. It is not traditional or cultural or racial. It is not even biological so it does not matter what our father did or who our mother was. We have a Father in heaven who reveals. It is not known ahead of time. What is inside of us has to be revealed and its done only by God. No human being can tell us who we are and we will not discover it because of the social circles we travel in or the social coloring of our skin. Who we are is not found in either.
Unlike us, Jesus asked the question while knowing fully and without any doubt who he is. He was not afraid to ask the question because he knew the answer. He knew their limitations. He knew what flesh and blood cannot reveal.