Luke 9: 18 – 20 Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah
Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’
They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’
‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
Peter answered, ‘God’s Messiah.’
* * *
The way St Luke writes this passage makes it appear that Peter’s answer is cut and dried. However, when I started to look into what the Jews of the first century AD would have understood by the term “Messiah” I discovered that it wasn’t.
One thing that the term “Messiah” didn’t mean to a Jew was “Son of God”, and a part of the Godhead. The Jewish faith is strictly monotheistic, and such an interpretation would never have occurred to them. As far as I can tell – and I am not a theological scholar – the Jewish concept of the Messiah was that he would be a man, or perhaps an angel. He would unify the whole worldwide Jewish nation, restoring them to their original homeland of Israel and ushering in a golden age of peace, prosperity and justice.
But we have to consider as well why St Luke wrote his gospel. It was written to provide “an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1: 3 – 4) In other words, it was written to confirm and reinforce the teaching of the early church.
St Luke’s gospel was probably written sometime in the 90s AD, that is to say about sixty years after the life of Jesus, and substantially later than Paul’s epistles. By this time, the early church was well on the way to viewing God as a Trinity, with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
So what does Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah mean? It certainly includes the belief that Jesus was chosen and anointed by God. It probably also implies that Jesus is the Son of God.
And for me. What is my confession of faith? In my heart of hearts, who do I really believe Jesus to be?
Sometimes it seems easy to believe in Jesus and trust him, and sometimes it feels difficult. When I read of the numerous ways in which the same scriptures can be interpreted, and when I read of the doubt about sources, it can feel hard to believe in simplicity. Please forgive me for my doubts.
In Jesus name, Amen