Rightly Revealing Christ’s Identity

Two spirits realized the identity of Jesus:  The spirit who is now working in the sons of disobedience (aka Satan; Ephesians 2:1); and the Holy Spirit, the Spirit with whom the Son of God is united with the Father, the Spirit who enables people to call Jesus “Lord”, the Spirit of truth who accomplishes this only through the vehicle of the Word.

In our Gospel (Luke 4:31-44), the evil spirits know the identity of Jesus.  They correctly call Him, “The Holy One of God,” and later they rightly say to Jesus, “You are the Son of God,” to which Jesus explained, “They (the demons) knew that he was the Christ.”   Yes, the evil spirits knew and trembled at the identity of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.  Jesus, however, did not want the father of lies and his minions to thus correctly identify Him, for who then would know what was true?  Satanic spirits speak lies, so if they speak the truth how does one know what is truth? The people could not realize Jesus’ identity by a band of liars, so Jesus rebuked these liars.

Jesus would instead have people realize His identity through the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit cannot work through impure vehicles, but indeed He works through the Word. So Jesus was teaching and preaching the Word in their synagogues, “and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.”  The Spirit was working through this wondrous word; this was the right way to identify Jesus, through the Word.  And then as Jesus, who is the Word made flesh, exorcised the demons the people exclaimed, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits.” As the Word made flesh performed mighty miracles, even when He did not even speak, there in His very person is the vehicle for the Holy Spirit, there is God’s Word, means by which the Spirit reveals Jesus. Now the Word made flesh goes about speaking the Word of power, and the demons real at this power; the Word speaks the Word and the people are reeled in by the Spirit of truth.

Is the Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, bringing sinful people to correctly identify Jesus?  Peter, who observed the Word made flesh heal his mother-in-law, and Peter who constantly heard Jesus speak the Word, was being bombarded with the power of the Spirit of truth.  Evidence for this power is found in Saint Peter’s Spirit-driven, Father-revealed confession:  “You are the Christ, the Son of God.” (Matt. 16)  Peter’s confession is the same as that of the demons, but Peter’s confession is a confession of pure truth, realized by the Word through which the Spirit of truth was working.

What then is the purpose of correctly identifying Jesus?  As each of the four Gospels progresses we realize that Jesus is to perform the ultimate miracle, and give the ultimate Word of power.  In Luke’s Gospel Jesus predicts, ““The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (9:22)  Indeed the  Apostle Peter would hear such predictions repeated, and though Peter correctly identified Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, the real identity of this Christ would not be realized by Peter (or by anyone else) until the Son of God died and rose again.  Here is the climactic Word of power and authority:  The Word dies horribly for our horrible sins, for our misery and for our death.  Even if He spoke no word from the cross, yet there was the Word proclaiming the greatest wonder. And the Word rises from the grave guaranteeing that because He lives, we shall live also.  Then the Word (message) of these events goes forth; it is the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation.  This Gospel is preached and it issues forth in the Holy Sacraments, and now the greatest revelation of Jesus occurs this side of heaven.  We, by the Spirit of truth, can and do correctly realize and believe in the Christ, the Son of God, the Holy One of God, the Crucified Savior, the one who rises for our justification and for our life eternal.