And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:17)
This verse is incredibly humbling.
Someone I know declared himself an atheist over the summer and has spent the past few weeks belittling those who believe in God. One of his problems with religious people, and especially Christians, is that we reject reason and believe things without any (or even in contradiction to) evidence. If you talk to enough unbelievers, you’ll encounter that argument eventually.
I obviously disagree with him. I never really liked the term “blind faith,” and I think I have plenty of evidence both for the existence of God and for my faith in Jesus as the Son of God and substitutionary sacrifice for my sin. When I engaged him in conversation about his hostility toward faith, he gave me a bunch of things he thought were “unreasonable” about Christianity, and I did my best to present well-thought out, intelligent answers for them. But you know what? They didn’t convince him.
And based on Matthew 16:17, I shouldn’t expect them to. Think about it. Peter had spent 2 1/2 years with Jesus at this point. He had seen miracles, he had participated in miracles … he had even walked on water. Yet when he declares that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Jesus tells him that “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you.” While most of our English translations leave this ambiguous, the phrase “flesh and blood” could refer to any human being, including Peter himself. The Contemporary English Version translates it as, “You didn’t discover this on your own.” Basically, Jesus was telling Peter that his statement of faith was not based on facts, evidence, or personal experienced gleaned from 2 1/2 years of living and working with Jesus. Peter didn’t reason it out on his own; it was revealed to him by God. Paul makes a similar statement in Galatians 1:16 when he says that God “was pleased to reveal his Son to me.”
We just aren’t capable of coming to this conclusion on our own. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” And in Romans 1:22, he writes that “they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Our sinful human nature means that we have darkened hearts and blinded minds. If mankind cannot see evidence for God in the majesty of his creation, and if Peter could not reason out that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” from 2 1/2 years of seeing him teach and perform miracles, why do I think I can convince people with my arguments? No matter how logical or well-spoken they are, it still won’t be good enough because it just doesn’t depend on me.
Now, this doesn’t mean that we take a lazy, “blind faith” approach to Jesus and evangelism. We are still commanded to “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Making a defense implies that our hope is based on something that can be reasoned, thought through, and argued. But Jesus’ statement to Peter should be a check on our self-confidence and pride when it comes to our knowledge of God and a reminder that praying for God to reveal himself and his Son to people is more important than how well-reasoned and eloquent our arguments are. Because without God intervening, our “evidence” will never be good enough to convince anyone.
Things to Reflect on in Light of This Passage:
1. Do I realize that my coming to saving knowledge of and faith in Jesus Christ had nothing to do with me and everything to do with him? Do I credit my salvation to my own ability to see that Jesus is God or to his revealing himself to me?
2. When I discuss my faith with unbelievers, do I rely on my own ability to present logical, eloquent arguments or do I rely on God to open their hearts and minds and reveal his Son to them?
3. Do I pray that God would reveal himself and his Son to my children (grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc.) or do I assume that growing up in a Christian family, going to church every week, is enough in itself for them to see Jesus for who he is?
4. Am I prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks me for the reason for the hope that is in me?