Today we join Jesus as He and His disciples make the journey between Bethsaida and Caesarea Philippi. On the way Jesus has something He wants to talk about with His disciples. Let’s join them as they walk.
Jesus had just finished healing the blind man when He sent Peter back into the village to round up the rest of His disciples. As Peter runs off to gather the rest of the crew, Jesus talks with the man who now has perfect sight. “It is very important that you go directly home. DO NOT go back into the village.”
The man, full of gratitude, agrees to do as Jesus has instructed him. He is curious why Jesus doesn’t want him going into the village, but he will do whatever Jesus tells him to do. He doesn’t want to risk offending Jesus and possibly losing the gift he has just received.
Peter returns fifteen minutes later with the rest of Jesus’ disciples in tow. Bartholomew tells Jesus that the crowd was disappointed to learn that He wasn’t coming back, but that they were able to break up the crowd without too much difficulty.
Jesus starts walking and His disciples fall in beside and behind Him. Peter asks, “Where to now Jesus?”
“I want to visit Caesarea Philippi”, says Jesus. It is about a 21 mile journey and will take them several hours to complete. It is about midday when they set out so they should reach their destination by nightfall. They are not in a hurry as they walk along, so Jesus set a comfortable pace.
They have been walking along the valley of the upper Jordan River. Thomas is kicking a rock as they move along. John occasionally picks up stones and skips them across the Jordan. Bartholomew and Andrew have been discussing the happenings in the village while Jesus was away with the blind man. Peter has been quiet for some time and appears lost in thought.
John asks Jesus if He wants to stop for lunch. Jesus says that He thinks that’s a good idea and they start looking for a nice shady spot with plenty of room for them to sit. After spotting a tree with a few large stones near it they settle down to enjoy their meal.
Matthew begins to pass the bread and fish to his fellow disciples. After everyone receives a portion Jesus blesses the meal. Conversation is light during the meal. Jesus decides it is time to pose an important question. “Who do men say that I am?” This question is thrown out there without any preamble and it stops the disciples in mid chew.
Andrew is the first to speak. “Some say You are Elijah.”
Thomas adds, “I’ve hears others say You are John the Baptist risen from the dead. It is reported that Herod holds that belief too.”
Judas says, “Some say you are one of the prophets of old.”
Jesus nods His head in understanding and is quiet for a moment. The disciples are all watching Jesus wondering what He is thinking, for it is clear by the look on His face that this conversation is not over. It appears as if Jesus looks every disciple in the eye simultaneously and asks, “Who do you say that I am?”
Before anyone else has a chance to respond, Peter speaks with absolute conviction. “You are the Christ (verse 29), the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16).
A smile appears on Jesus’ face. “Peter, you are indeed blessed. God Himself has revealed this important truth to you.” Jesus pauses for another moment to let Peter’s statement sink into the hearts of the rest of His disciples. Jesus then looks directly into Peter’s eyes and speaks to him alone. “You Peter are my rock. I will build my church on this solid foundation and even the gates of Hell will not be able to stand against it. I am also giving you the keys of my Kingdom. Whatever you bind or loose on Earth, will also be bound or loosed in Heaven.”
Peter’s eyes are wide as he listens to Jesus’ words. “WOW! What an honor”, thinks Peter.
Jesus breaks eye contact with Peter and then looks around at the rest of His disciples. Jesus is so pleased that they finally see, but He also knows the danger this knowledge brings with it. It is not time for the whole world to know the truth yet.
“What Peter has voiced is true, but it is not time to reveal it to anyone outside this immediate group. It is imperative that you tell NO ONE this truth. When the time comes, I will be the one to reveal this truth. Am I clear on this point?”
Heads around the group begin to nod. “I swear to keep silent”, says James.
“I also swear it”, says Bartholomew. Several other disciples stated the same.
Jesus is satisfied and resumes eating His meal. There is much more to tell His disciples now that they recognize Who He is, but it can wait a little while. The disciples finally resume eating but each is locked in silent contemplation of what has just taken place.
Father God, thank You for allowing me to sit down with Jesus while He asks this foundational question. This question and answer is the centerpiece for everything You did. If Jesus were not the Son of God, His redemptive work would have failed. If He were simply a man, His actions would have had less significance in Israel’s history than Moses. As the Christ, His actions change the world. Thank You Jesus for Your willingness to step into our humanity and rock our world!
Jesus, it took quite some doing to finally get through to Your disciples the truth of Who You were. They still didn’t understand all that was entailed in living up to Peter’s confession. They still had their own ideas of what being the Christ would involve. Thank You that even with their “high hopes” You never lost sight of God’s plan. Thank You that You went right on working on His plan instead of being swayed by Your disciples plans. Thank You that You didn’t abandon them when they tried to push their own agenda. You brought them along until they finally saw the fullness of what You were doing from the beginning.
Kind of reminds me of someone watching a craftsman making something. The observer doesn’t always understand the steps along the way and may have ideas they think would work better. But the craftsman knows the process from start to finish and knows the importance of each step. By staying true to his plan/training/design a true work of art is created. The observer simply needs to trust the craftsman and enjoy the finished product. Thank You for being my Craftsman; my Christ.
A craftsman at work. Just something that popped into my mind from the story.