Jesus did not go round Judea claiming to be the Son of God, and when, sitting on the hillside above Caesarea Phillippi he asked the apostles who men said that he was, he received a variety of answers. He was a prophet reincarnated, possibly Isaiah or Jeremiah, even John the Baptist, but no one said that they or anyone else regarded Jesus as divine. When Simon Peter told Jesus that he thought him the Christ, the messiah, there were no divine meanings to that term, and it denoted one holy in God's sight sent to save Israel.
Many people try to pigeonhole Jesus into pre-existing categories: he was a prophet, a story teller, a teacher of wisdom,a revolutionary,a rabbi, and the apostles were no exception to this tendency. Yet Jesus did not fit comfortably into the categories in which people placed him. He was all of them, yet more. There were experiences that seemed to draw on the understanding to transcend existing categories through which Jesus was seen, but the understanding lagged behind the experience and the full apprehension took time to mature.
Let us look at some of them. There was the transfiguration,[Mark 8] the time on Mount Tabor [so tradition has it] when Jesus seemed to glow with light. A sense of being in the presence of bright white light sometimes happens in a religious experience, but for the three apostles present Jesus was not having a religious experience, he was the religious experience, and he was being affirmed by the presence of God. This was a powerful indication that Jesus was someone special. Furthermore, his Word seemed to have power to command. In Mark 2 he displays unusual knowledge of the origins of the paralyzed man's condition, and his word of command touches the depths of the man's soul, forgiving his sins, an action that only God can do. We see the same power of the word in the case of Jairus' daughter in Mark 5, where he speaks to a clinically dead girl and restores her to consciousness.
He conducted himself as one with authority, and as Neil Wright, an Anglican bishop, says in Who Was Jesus, Jesus behaved as though he was in charge. This is confirmed by Bornkamm [writing in Jesus of Nazareth] who says that he was one who had innate authority.Jesus was therefore a big personality with an imposing charismatic presence. Furthermore,in Mark's Gospel we are told that unlike his fellow rabbis who taught by referring back to other rabbis, Jesus taught on his own authority, a practice that upset the religious and intellectual establishment of Israel at the time. But this makes him a challenge, you either stand for him or against him, but you cannot be neutral, so there were people who loved and committed to him, and there were others who were bitterly opposed. You either loved him or hated him, but you could not ignore him.
To be one of Jesus' disciples was to walk with a powerful charismatic figure whose words fired the soul and challenged listeners to holiness. It was, I believe,to walk with one who had a deeply holy presence, one who was close to God and drew listeners into that closeness. Yet none of the disciples regarded him as God, and the Transfiguration indicated that God was other than Jesus,who was his Son, but the term Son of God simply denoted to Jews a holy person close to God. So far therefore, no divinity, but great holiness. But the stage was prepared.