Years ago, my husband and I took a dream vacation to Italy. For months leading up to the trip, I read every book about Italy I could get my hands on, trying to immerse myself in the history and the culture. I wanted to know some background of the sights we’d see.
No amount of reading, however, could have prepared me for the experience of actually being there. The magnitude and beauty of St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican. The realness and perfection of Michelangelo’s The Pieta and The David. The simple joy of an afternoon gelato by the Trevi Fountain. So many important details revealed to us only as we lived the experience.
We gain full knowledge through experience, not just learning.
Today we’re going to look at Matthew 16:13-17 where Peter experiences a divine revelation about Jesus, a truth he learned only by opening his heart to the full experience of Jesus.
[callout]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 Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16: 13-17 NIV)[/callout]
This exchange begins at 3:30 in the clip below from The Gospel of Matthew movie:
[youtube id=”B4ZTvxZlMKc?t=3m30s” height=”353″ width=”574″ marginbottom=”15″]
The Jewish people in Jesus’s day were well-versed in the stories of their people’s history. The stories of the Patriarchs, the exodus out of Egypt, Moses, the prophets, and the prophecy of the Messiah.
The people were trying to figure out who Jesus was, but most were approaching it from an academic view. They had the foundation and the history, but they didn’t have the full experience.
Peter and the disciples had both. They had been educated in the synagogue and knew the history and the prophecies and knew some probable theories about who Jesus could be. By immersing themselves in the story, though, following Jesus day by day and knowing his story intimately, they gained additional insight into the truth.
When Jesus asked who did the disciples believe he was, Peter blurted out, “the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus explained this was not revealed to Peter through any reading or study or teaching he’d heard. Instead, building upon that foundational knowledge and experience, God Himself revealed this deeper truth to Peter.
Opening our hearts to experience God will open the power of God’s words to us in the Bible.
As Peter and the disciples developed their relationship with Jesus and understood he was truly the son of God, they wanted to put their full trust in him. Jesus was the answer and they didn’t want to go anywhere else. They wanted to go ‘all in’ for Jesus.
[callout]“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69 NIV)[/callout]
Knowing our history, knowing the stories and teaching in the Bible is foundational. Once we have this sound foundation, we can better listen for God’s word. Look for those words that just seem to jump up off the pages at us – what one friend calls ‘neon Bible verses’ – where God is trying to catch our attention to speak to us. Build that relationship where we want to go ‘all in’ and put our trust fully in God.
Read all three accounts of this conversation for yourself: Matthew 16:13-20, Luke 9:18-27 and Mark 8:27-33
Reflect on the questions below:
1) What does this passage tell you about Jesus?
2) How does this passage speak to you?
3) Who do you believe Jesus is?
If you want to dig deeper into the life and lessons of Peter, I highly recommend two books:
“A Fragile Stone: The Emotional Life of Simon Peter”, by Michael Card and “The Fisherman: A Novel”, by Larry Huntsperger
[callout]This post is part of the “A Better Change” series. For more information on this series and to find related posts, click here: A Better Change Series – Overview[/callout]