Several years back, many photos of artists’ renditions of what Jesus may have looked like were strewn across my drawing board, including photos of the Shroud of Turin. I was attempting to come up with some kind of composite based on all of them that would add my creative efforts to the collection. The “portrait” included with this writing is that result.
Yet as I worked on the drawing (now somewhat electronically enhanced here) it seemed that while I worked, He posed the same question to me that He did to His disciples so long ago: “Who do you say I am?” The question haunted me as the days went on…
Jesus knew full well His identity and purpose. Yet He quizzes His disciples on a couple of key points, “What are people saying about Me? What is their comprehension or opinion? What do you hear out there on the street?”
However, His question becomes more personal, deeper. “ Here’s what I really want you to answer: what is your comprehension of Me?”
“… But whom say ye that I am?…
Peter, ever the outspoken one, perhaps announcing on behalf of the Twelve, replies, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God…” At this Jesus pronounces blessing upon Peter at his insight.
Rather than pointing to Peter, however, Jesus points to the revelation that came to Peter directly from God the Father. “… upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:15-18)
It is not the man called Peter upon which Christ’s spiritual church was to be founded, but rather the same revelation which was given to Peter or Petros (pet’-ros) Πέτρος – “a piece of rock”. “This rock” upon which His church is built is petra (pet’-ra) πέτρα – “a mass of rock”.
The revelation of Jesus Christ is the latter, the “mass of rock” – the solid foundation! Peter is Petros, a “piece of rock” (one which, by the way, often sank to the bottom in many a tempest, both spiritual and physical). Certainly he was important as an apostle and cannot be marginalized in that regard. However… Jesus is not saying here that His people were to be based upon the fallible “piece of rock” called Peter, but on the “mass of rock” – the foundational revelation of Christ Himself!
This revelation comes straight from God’s Mind to the inner being – to heart and mind – and is greater than the man Peter! It’s not based on anyone else’s testimony. It comes by way of personal revelation. It’s deeply, intensely personal when Jesus reveals Himself to us!
When Christ comes to make Himself known as Who He really is, this forever changes the life and direction of the recipient of this bestowal: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12,13) This revelation is clearly the game changer!
His revelation brings “special eyes” with which to comprehend reality and bestows a heavenly vision and calling, far beyond imagination. It is foretold in Isaiah 35:5 “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened…” Certainly He granted physical sight to the physically blind. Yet must He be the One Who also opens the eyes of our understanding to comprehend Him, and all else He wishes to let us see! He is the Bestower of special eyes.
What’s hinted at is that those upon whom this revelation is bestowed – those who can likewise proclaim with the deep conviction of inner sight, knowing, and understanding – are the ekklēsia (ek-klay-see’-ah) ἐκκλησία – the ones called forth by Him. When He reveals himself to us, He calls and sets us apart for His own purposes! And was He not the One to destroy the works of the evil one, and also to bring many sons to glory? If we have been made one with Him in His death, resurrection, and ascension, then are we also not of the same mind and purpose? “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17,18)
This revelation is a far cry from the perception of Jesus as yet another “founder” of another world religion, or even a great, wise, enlightened soul – with paths and practices for devotees to adhere to which are futile and difficult to keep and lead nowhwere. Nor is He some “ascended master”, the child of an alien or an angel, or some sort of vague Christ consciousness that lies dormant in every individual… or any of the other contenders for the identity of Jesus THE Christ out there in public opinion.
The revelation of Jesus Christ to the inner being changes the spectacle of the dark events of Golgotha from the outer perception of simply a good man who was unjustly dying for an insurrection against the government and the religious establishment which he did not commit, to the inner perception of what was really going on beneath the surface – something of celestial, cosmic, and earthly magnitude, implication, and importance.
Just as at His beginnings in a humble stable – where it took special eyes to recognize Him as not simply a poor child who was turned away by the inn keeper, but the Savior Who is Christ the Lord – so it takes special eyes to perceive Him at Golgotha, as the Creator, Savior, and Lord of humankind – the One anointed and appointed in those dark hours to crush the serpent’s head and set free all captives to him who would receive Him.
Curiously Jesus finishes this conversation in a most mysterious way: “Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.” (Matthew 16:20) Why would He have not wanted this stunning piece of information spread far and wide?
He also commands that the demons not express this as well in Mark 1:34: “And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.” See also Luke 4:41: “Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ.”
Other references: Mark 1:43-44 after healing a leper, Mark 7:36 upon curing a deaf and dumb man, Matthew 9:30 the healing of two blind men, Mark 9:9 after His transfiguration… these are a few.
There are some (frankly lame) opinions out there concerning why He would have wanted to keep the revelation of His identity a secret, founded on unspiritual, carnal opinions – tying none of these “reasons” into the idea of a profound and personal revelation bestowed by God Himself.
It gives pause for a moment to entertain the question, Why is no one going to Source to ascertain the answer from the Holy Spirit? Or are “we” too wrapped up in theological thinkers’ opinions to go there, substituting someone else’s indoctrination for the special eyes whereby we shall see Him as He is?
Does He not still pose the question in these turbulent times, “whom say ye that I am?”