|18One day as Jesus was praying in private and the disciples were with Him, He questioned them: “Who do the crowds say I am?” 19They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that a prophet of old has arisen.” 20“But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” 21Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22“The Son of Man must suffer many things,” He said. “He must be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”|
St John puts Peter’s confession after his teaching on Jesus being the Bread of life that people must eat of to live. Many people turned away because they did not understand, but Peter said – “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.” (You are the Christ, the Son of the living God). (John 6:68, 69) St Luke puts it after the feeding of the 5000. The Gospel of Matthew puts it after he had warned them of the Yeast of the Pharisees, and he refers to the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000 and says that it was when they were in Caesarea Phillipi. (Matthew 16:16) Mark 8:27 has them having the discussion on the road as they journeyed around Caesarea Phillipi, also after the warning about the yeast of the Pharisees, and Mark throws in a healing of a blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22) as a link between their misunderstanding about Jesus being the true bread from heaven and the yeast of the Pharisees and the fact that he was the Christ. We must remember that each author collated the story and placed incidents for theological not chronological reasons. But all the Gospels speak of the confession of Peter being made in between the teaching about Jesus being the bread of life and him explaining that he would be crucified. Luke has it in the context of prayer, the others in the context of ministry, the two intimate actions of the Christian – prayer and action.
We looked yesterday at the relevance of the statement about John the Baptist, and Elijah – reminders that the people throughout Judaism were expecting a Messiah, they were expecting the “Son of God” but all four Gospels relate how they struggled to recognise Jesus as that Messiah. Marks healing miracle is informative. (Mark 8: 22-25)
“22When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then He spit on the man’s eyes and placed His hands on him. “Can you see anything?” He asked. 24The man looked up and said, “I can see the people, but they look like trees walking around.” 25Once again Jesus placed His hands on the man’s eyes, and when he opened them his sight was restored, and he could see everything clearly. “
For me this scripture is speaking about people’s relationship with Jesus – they were waiting for the healer of the world, but much of what he did insulted the Pharisees and the Sadducees, because they were locked in the culture of the Law, they could not see the wood for the trees, as the expression goes. The first encounter with Jesus left them confused, but Jesus persisted and opened their eyes, and they saw the Christ.
The understanding that the Jews had built up over centuries, since King David, was that the Messiah would come and rebuild the Nation of Israel, reunite them and in power and majesty, restore the fortunes of Israel. When Jesus explained that he was given for the world and that he was the bread of life that would sustain people in the wilderness, they were thinking – ‘no don’t speak to us about the wilderness’, you are supposed to be reigning in the Temple Courts of a restored Jerusalem not keeping us out in the wilderness. Manna in the wilderness was not what they wanted Christ to be – they wanted him to be King of the conquering nation. In the wilderness, they had asked “what is this” in the Wilderness they lived in uncertainty, but in the temple, they had clearly defined for themselves who God was and how to worship him. They lived in certainty. The temple had storehouses of grain there was security and certainty, in the wilderness, they were vulnerable and completely dependant on God’s provision. Jesus the bread of life was the true bread from heaven, the man-made laws of the Pharisees was contaminated, with human desires.
Where does your confession of Christ lie? Are you prepared to walk with God in uncertainty? What are your expectations of God for your life? When you read the Gospel, you will find your thoughts and attitudes and perceptions and confusions personified in the lives of the bible characters. Recognise them, confess them on the road, in action, and in your inner chamber of prayer, confess Jesus as the Messiah, the saviour of the world, the Bread of life, who gives his life to conquer the sin of death. One day you will reign with him in glory, but for now, you must serve with him in humility. Who do you say Jesus is? Have your eyes been opened to the truth? Receive the body of Christ – unite with him, and be used by him to bring hope, healing, forgiveness, sight to the blind, even in the uncertainty of life.
Let us pray:
Lord God open our eyes to understand the scriptures and to receive you as the bread of life – keep us curious and seeking your will for our lives, give us the courage to lay down our lives and be used by you for your praise and glory. For you are lifted high and exalted, you laid down your life, give us the strength to lay ours down too.