Who do people say the Son of Man is?
Have you ever sat in a café with a friend when someone whom you didn’t know, came up and sort of joined in the conversation? When they’d gone, the first thing you probably said to your friend was: “Who was that?”
The answer might have been interesting, but the fact remains, the person was probably unimportant to you. The really important information about someone else is that which we get as a result of a relationship. And, of course, only somebody with whom we’re in relationship, can let us know who we really are to them, and therefore what we might be to other people as well.
Most of us try hard to present a good face to the world and in the main we probably do a pretty good job of hiding those bits about ourselves which make us feel ashamed. It’s fairly easy to do this with someone whom you don’t know very well, but it’s very difficult to disguise selfishness, greed, arrogance or pride from someone with whom you share a great deal of your life. Those who are close to us will see us as we really are, and their opinions are important because they will contain truth which hasn’t been deceived.
People saw Jesus as all sorts of things. Some saw him as a prophet, some as a preacher and no doubt many people saw him just as a miracle worker. And all of these understandings were true. But the opinion that he really valued was the one which came from Simon Peter. Someone who knew him well, because they’d shared so much together. Jesus was sure about his own vocation, but it was important to him that those people with whom he was in close relationship should recognise something else in him; something which made him very special indeed.
We know from the gospels that the disciples must have talked about Jesus amongst themselves. They must have shared their experiences of him with each other. We all do this about anyone who’s an important person in our group. But it was at Caesarea Phillipi that all of this came together for Peter and convinced him that his master was the Messiah. And as he was brought to this point so Jesus was able to see that this revelation to Peter was nothing less than the work of God.
And what happened to Peter must happen to us as well. People will sometimes tell you about quick and dramatic conversion experiences; but perhaps to be brought to the point where you can confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, needs a bit more than a quick burst of emotion. Perhaps it needs being in the company of other men and women who are often as confused as you are, and with whom you can share your doubts and your fears.
Perhaps it means watching what Jesus continues to do and teach through other people.
Perhaps it means being in a relationship with Jesus, for a fairly long period, even if you aren’t really able to explain or understand just how you can be in such a relationship.
And perhaps it means accepting that our conversion is an on-going business, and that we shall grow more and more in faith as we journey on.
Perhaps it means all of these things, together with an understanding that we’re just like Peter. We too, are on a journey. We can be brought to an acceptance of Jesus as Lord and we can then deny him and doubt him. But like Peter we’ll be restored and forgiven each time that we go back.
If we’re honest we shall all admit that we pass through times of doubt and difficulty after we’ve accepted Jesus as Lord of the Universe. It’s not as though we believe and that’s that. Our journey will continue with many ups and downs. There will be times of glorious certainty, but there will also be times, perhaps long times, of doubt and almost of despair when we may feel tempted to give up. But it’s at those times when the seed of faith may well be growing most strongly inside of us without our awareness.
Confessing Jesus as Lord is indeed not the end. It’s rather ,the end of the beginning ; the beginning of a life whose beauty and fullness will only become crystal clear when we pass through the gate of death and know even as we are known.
May God give us all the grace to live in this faith.