Before I had a renewal of my faith at age 26, if someone had asked me who Jesus was, I would have likely replied in a manner seemingly similar to Peter, acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God who died to save us from our sins. However, unlike Peter, my knowledge of who Jesus was came primarily from what I heard each week at Mass, in the Stations of the Cross which my family attended faithfully each Friday during Lent, and in my Religion classes in Catholic elementary school. My knowledge of Jesus came from what I learned. It was more academic than experiential. It was revealed to me by “flesh and blood.”
The difference between the “people” to whom Jesus first referred in this Gospel (as well as the pre-renewal me) and Peter and the Apostles was that the Apostles experienced a desire for Jesus which resulted in a deep understanding of who Jesus was, rather than an incorrect or superficial knowledge. Their desire was evidenced by the fact that they made a daily decision to keep following Jesus. We know from what we read in John 6:66 and Matthew 19:22 that at various times for various reasons followers of Jesus could and would stop following him. I have the free will to stop following Jesus anytime. My desire to keep following Jesus is a cooperation with the grace which our “heavenly Father” pours out upon me, as it was also for Peter and the Apostles. As a result of my faithfulness, I experience a depth of God’s love for me personally which takes my knowledge of who Jesus is to truly heartfelt heights, far surpassing my merely human – revealed by “flesh and blood” – knowledge of who he is.
That’s why whenever I take the time to assess my faithfulness to my baptismal calling, the first and most important never-to-be-omitted question I ask myself is “What was my level of desire for God today?”