The twelve had already been on a mission teaching, healing and delivering people from demons. They saw Jesus minister out of compassion to a crowd of five thousand men (not to mention the women and children too). Previous to these events they’d heard Jesus teach on the Kingdom of God and seen hi do many incredible things. And yet at this moment they don’t recognize him, or believe that it could be him, walking on the lake. What had they really understood about Jesus?
The presence of the Holy Spirit is so important in understanding who Jesus is. There are many who know Jesus intellectually and have seen the power that is found in the name of Jesus, and yet just like the disciples in the boat they don’t understand. The encounter the two disciples on the road to Emmaus had with the resurrected Jesus is another example (Luke 24:13-35). The revealing work of the Holy Spirit is needed to bridge the gap between knowing Jesus as a man, or even a prophet, and truly understanding who he is – the Messiah, the Saviour of the world (John 16:13). We see this throughout the Gospels as the disciples shift back and forth between belief and unbelief up until the day of Pentecost when they are filled with the Holy Spirit and experience His transforming power (Acts 2:4).