There’s a familiar passage in Matthew 16 where Yeshua, talking to his disciples, asks, Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?” They respond, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Then Yeshua continues, “But who say ye that I am?” Simon Peter quickly proclaims, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” At that, Yeshua turns to Peter and makes a most startling statement: “…flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father, who is in heaven.”
Have you ever thought about that? It was not by our great intellect that any of us became believers in Jesus, nor by our great spirituality, nor because someone talked us into believing, like a vacuum salesman promoting his wares. No, we became believers because God himself removed the blinders from our eyes and showed us Jesus.
A thought comes to me: How much of Jesus does one have to see in order to believe? A shadow? A glance? A touch? A vision? I don’t know. Only God knows how much each of us needs to see before we can say like Peter, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
I remember the first time I told my Jewish grandfather that I believed in Jesus. It was in 1972. 1 had been a believer for 18 months, and I wanted my grandfather to believe too. He looked at me and laughed and said, “Jesus? He never existed. A fable, a bedouin story; there was no such person.” So ended that discussion with my grandfather—for the time being.
A few years passed, and one day my grandfather said, “I have been watching you, and I like the way you conduct yourself. But I only wish you were in a different kind of business (meaning something other than Jews for Jesus) so I could be proud of you.” Now you might not understand it, but that was a very high compliment my grandfather paid me, and I received it as such. Still he wouldn’t talk to me about Jesus.
A few more years passed, and again I was visiting my grandfather. As we walked down the street in Miami Beach one sunny day, he said, “Maybe if this man Jesus were around today, the world would be a lot better place to live in.”
“Pop, what do you mean?” I asked.
He said, “The stories that have been written about Jesus seem to indicate that he was a good man and that he cared a lot for people.”
So ended that conversation.
A few more years passed, and one evening while my grandfather was visiting me in New York, he happened to attend one of our Friday night worship services. That night he came home very upset.
“Now I understand,” he said. “Now I understand why we are losing so many of our people to your movement. It’s because you people have something there that we don’t have in the synagogue. You people really care for one another and really show love to one another.”
I thought to myself, “What has God been showing my grandfather this time?”
A few more months passed, and I was with my grandfather again. This time he had a religious question. When I answered him, he looked at me and said, “I have known you since you were a baby, and I have watched you grow up. Of all my grandkids, you were the most non-religious. You were the one who had the least regard for Hebrew school, the synagogue and holy things. But something has happened to you in the last 14 years. What once you didn’t care for has become your great love and concern. You have acquired religious knowledge in a very short time. I don’t understand how this can be.”
I thought, “What is God showing my grandfather this time?”
Then, just a few days later while I was with my grandfather, he was very angry and asked, “How could God be so cruel as to put his son to death by crucifixion? Do you realize what a painful, excruciating way that is to die? Why would God do such a terrible thing to his son?”
Once more I wondered, “What is God showing my grandfather this time?”
Now my grandfather is 95 years old. He is healthy. He has lived by himself since the death of my grandmother. He cooks for himself and takes care of himself. He socializes and he loves life. He also knows that he is not going to live forever.
I wonder: How much more does my grandfather need to see before he will believe in Jesus? How much more of Jesus does he need to see? It was not flesh and blood revealing those bits and pieces of truth to my grandfather all those years, but God in heaven. But despite all of that, my grandfather needs to acknowledge who Jesus is of his own free will. How much of Jesus does he need to see before he can do that? How much of Jesus does anyone need to see before being able to say like Peter, “Thou art the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God”?