He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven!” Matthew 16:15-17
This is the confession of Jesus by Peter and a turning point for the Gospel of Matthew. In many circles, Peter gets labeled, no doubt partly in reaction to some circles where Peter is idolized. “Oh! Good old open-mouth-insert-foot Peter!” they say every time their reading records a time when Peter opens his mouth, as if laughing at an Apostle somehow elevates them or makes their sermon more interesting. Even this section, where Peter gets it right, preachers want to rush down a few verses to the place where he gets rebuked for getting it wrong. Do not miss that here Peter got it right. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
The significant thing, though, is Jesus’ response to Peter, “My Father revealed this to you.” After all that he had seen and heard in his personal interactions with Jesus, Peter‘s recognition of who Jesus is was the result of a special revelation from God. And so it is with us all. Every conversion is just as directly supernatural as the revelation Peter received here.
This idea is not universally held, however. I have been with people who looked at this event and said that it shows just how stupid Peter really was. “He needed God to hit him over the head with the obvious.” They think that had it been that they were there, they would have recognized Jesus way before Peter and without God having to go through the trouble of revealing anything to them. To their mind, all that was needed to recognize Jesus as the Christ was simple observation and the simple addition of one plus one. They missed the point of Jesus’ comment.
In reference to this Scripture, Søren Kierkegaard wrote how every culture has some story of a king who puts on common clothes and walks among his people. Usually, in the story there is something that slips out – his royal bearing or some noble outrage towards an observed injustice – which causes others to recognize the king. This Scripture, says Kierkegaard, is not one of those stories. “When God walks incognito, nobody is going to stumble upon him.” It is nothing other than the blessing of God that reveals Christ to a person. Flesh and blood is inadequate.
Another point was brought up with a recent question I read of what was Abraham’s relationship with God before . The answer, according to Joshua, was that he did not worship God. Joshua told all the people, “Here is what the LORD God of Israel says: ‘In the distant past your ancestors lived beyond the Euphrates River, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor. They worshiped other gods, but I took your father Abraham from beyond the Euphrates and brought him into the entire land of Canaan. (Joshua 24:2,3) God chose to reveal himself to an idol worshipper. Same as Peter, Abram received a special revelation from God.
Also same as Peter, people wish that there was more to the story. Many Jews and Christians wish to see as an outcome of some unrecorded life of piety. Jewish legend has it that as a child, Abram’s father was an idol maker. One day, Abram went into the shop and broke all his father’s idols except one. When the father asked him what happened, Abram said that the idol went around breaking the others. When told by his father that idols were inanimate and could not do such a thing, young Abram said “With your own mouth you condemn yourself”. Yet, the biblical record is that Abram worshipped other gods than The LORD God (YHWH Elohim). Unasked, God chose to reveal himself to Abram. Without any prior “value”, Abram was brought into covenant with the Lord God, Creator of all.
So it is with all believers in all ages. We who were “dead in our trespasses and our sins” are “raised up together with Christ”. Each conversion is a miracle on the level of being raised from the dead. This calls us all to humility. “What do you have that you did not receive?” asks Paul “and if you received it, why do you act as if you did not receive it?”