Who Do You Say That I Am
Text: Mark 8: 27-38
Proposition: What you say about Christ matters: to Christ; to you; to those beside you; to those that will never meet you.
Introduction: Have you ever been misunderstood, have you tried your best and yet it seems no one has been affected by it, have you done what you were supposed to do and yet it seems to almost make no difference? Now imagine how that feeling can amplify if you only have a small window of time to get the job done. Turn to Mark 8:27-38 as we read about a time when it’s likely that Jesus felt exactly that way.
I. The Gospel of Jesus Called For a Monumental Risk … Apparently.
We are 8 chapters into the Gospel of Mark, things have been happening very quickly. Think of it like this: Jesus was baptized in the Jordan in about September of 25 AD. The account we are looking at this morning took place about August of 27AD. The Cross of Christ happens in March of 28AD. In other words just seven months from this point in Mark 8, Jesus time on earth with His disciples will be complete. So ask yourselves, what’s at stake? What might have been on Jesus mind from a human point of view? If people did not understand that He was God and that His intent in coming to earth was to offer Himself as the sacrifice for sin, once for all, then His death, His work, His effort would all seem to be in vain and worse, much worse, mankind would be eternally lost in sin and be appointed to an eternal separation from God. All mankind’s eternal destiny in Heaven or Hell was at stake. So Jesus travelled extensively in and around Israel, the teaching and miracles were almost endless. Have a look at this map http://bibleatlas.org/full/caesarea_philippi.htm , Jesus has just been in Tyre and Sidon, then in the Decapolis, then in Magdala, then in Bethsaida and now here in Mark 8:27 they are going to the north to the towns around Caesarea Philippi. So you begin to feel the time running out and that’s when Jesus asks His disciples this question in verse 27, “Who do men say that I am?” The response is almost encouraging, “So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” Every answer suggested that Jesus was an incarnation of some former great men, like their spirit had somehow risen from the dead and now was again walking the earth in the person of Jesus. Despite feeding 9000 people, raising the dead, healing the lame, curing lepers and demon possessed people, despite profound teaching and the explanations of all that the prophets had written they only saw Jesus as an unusual and amazing man. What an extraordinary risk God had taken in sending His Son. The Gospel was there in front of the people and no one seems able to grasp it… apparently. That’s when Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them directly, “But who do you say that I am?” Look at what happens next.
II. Apparently… God Opens the Minds and the Mouths of People.
I say apparently because you can see it right in the text before you and not just here but we see and even experience it in our own lives. God speaks not only to us but through us. Look at how Peter responds to Jesus, “Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” In the parallel account in Matthew 16 there is more detail, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The Christ, literally it means ‘The Anointed One’, was a reference to the Messiah. So Peter proclaims Jesus to be the promised Messiah, a much higher claim than being Elijah or John the Baptist. But don’t forget their understanding of the Messiah was that he would be a man of extraordinary talent and power and would save Israel from political and economic oppression. The Christ in that sense falls far short of Who Jesus really is. That’s why I wanted you to see Matthews remembrance of this moment where Peter actually said, “the Son of the Living God.” What an incredible symphony that must have sounded like to Jesus. For the first time Who He is as God is being declared by His disciples. Once again look at what Matthew records as what happens next in Matthew 16:17, “Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” That’s what I mean when I say that ‘Apparently God opens the minds and mouths of people.’ It was for Peter not just an insight but an inspired utterance, an irresistible prompt from the Holy Spirit to speak truth at the right moment. If you keep on reading in Matthew 16:18 Jesus then says, “And I also say to you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” I believe that is a reference to not just the words and work of Peter as a disciple but also to the faith that would characterize the church for thousands of years to come. The church is not built upon Peter as though he were some kind of pope, it is built upon a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. What you say about Christ matters: to Christ; to you; to those beside you; to those that will never meet you as God opens your mind and mouth.
III. The Christ…Apparently… Changes Everything, Even Death.
The disciples grasped through Peters declaration that Jesus is God yet they still had to recognize how Jesus would save them. So Jesus cautions them not to tell others about Who He really is, yet. They needed to know first what this God on earth was about to do in just seven short months. Verse 31 says, “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” In one moment they had discovered that Jesus is God incarnate, the Messiah. In the next moments they hear that this Jesus, this Messiah, will be rejected, killed and three days later rise from the dead. I think they likely only heard one thing, ‘the Son of the living God will die…’. Perhaps there was another word that burst into their minds, “the Son of man MUST suffer many things”. Jesus must suffer many things, must be rejected, must be killed, must be raised again three days later. The certainty of God’s Sovereignty is contained in that word MUST. You can hardly blame the disciples for being awe struck by such truth. Peter comes and takes Jesus by the arm and begins to correct Him, even to rebuke Him. Have you corrected God lately, said or did something that asserted your will over His? Peters intent was that Jesus would prosper and be famous and be received because of how good He is. But Peters plan missed one crucial piece of data. Man’s greatest need is for sin to be defeated as a force in mankind’s logic, as a rebellion in mankind’s soul, as the source of enmity between man and God. Jesus Christ came to change everything by bringing life into a place of death. John 10:10 right?
God the Father spoke to and through Peter and yet in the next moment Satan speaks to and through Peter. In both cases Peter spoke what he thought was truth. Was it a pride that kicked open the door in Peter’s mind, a pride for being used of God? The gate way was that Peter had his mind on the things of men, he wasn’t even considering how God would use Jesus in such an eternally transforming way. The thing is that such error can spread like fog. Look at verse 33, “But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Peter had only said what the others were thinking and it was evident to Jesus that the correction of Peter needed to be their correction as well. The things of men are short sighted, limited in effect, hollow in value. Jesus points them to the things of God. He gives two ‘whoever’ statements:
1. “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” To come after Jesus, to follow Him, requires two deaths: His death for your sin, your death to self. The cross was not a method of short term punishment. It was death ro. Jesus is telling us that when it comes to the rule of our self rights, death row is it’s home.
2. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” To save your life infers saving it for your glory, for your kingdom. To lose your life is the surrender of those desires as if you were physically dead in this world and couldn’t pursue them if you wanted to. What’s at stake is the risk of losing your own soul. Losing soul, what could that mean? It isn’t a reference to annihilationist beliefs where you simply cease to exist. It refers to losing the battle for what your soul was designed for. Your soul is designed for the glory of God. All of who you are He created and designed it to reflect Him. If you try to reflect yourself with your life you will lose the very purpose for which you designed. If you are ashamed of Him it’s because you are proud of you. Such a heart will always struggle with dependence on God and a growing desire to be in and part of God’s kingdom. That’s what the cross of Christ was intended to do, to pay the price of your sin, to redeem you and then having that purchased by the act of your faith, to indwell the Holy Spirit in you that His kingdom come is your soul’s prayer. The Christ, apparently, changes everything, even death!