The Messiah Revealed
Text: Mark 8:27-38
Proposition: In order for the penalty of sin to be taken away from man, the Son of man, Jesus, denied Himself, endured the cross and followed the Father.
Introduction: It was in the northern region of Israel, near Mount Hermon, that Jesus now leads His disciples. This was the area where the Greek temples to Pan and other Greek idols were put in place by Alexander the Great. One of the sources of the Jordan River begins here. A place of beauty, Herod’s son Phillip built a city in honor of Caesar here, Caesarea Philippi. The Romans had added their influences to this place and now it was a stronghold of Pagan idols. It’s here that Jesus leads His disciples, to the gates of pagan idolatry, that lead into the rest of the fallen world. It is here where Jesus for the first time tells them clearly that the Messiah they have longed for is about to go to Jerusalem and be put to death for the sins of the world and after three days will rise again. It’s here where Peter in one moment is led by the Holy Spirit to proclaim truth and then less than a minute later is deceived by Satan and speaks deception. Let’s read this passage together in Mark 8:27-38.
I. Christ’s Call. There is such confusion when it comes to understanding Who Jesus is. The people had seen Jesus do things that were extraordinary, raising the dead, feeding thousands with just a few loaves, healing people. Then there was the authority He spoke with, He wasn’t afraid of the Pharisees, Jesus spoke with clarity in one moment and then with these enigmatic parables the next. So standing in the region of Caesarea Philippi, in the presence of many idols and expressions of confusion about God, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” The response is peculiar because it reflects their awareness of past history with John the Baptist and then earlier prophets like Elijah and even Jeremiah. But they had misunderstood the closing words of Malachi that said the Lord would send one in the spirit and power of Elijah. They thought that this meant some sort of raising from the dead, perhaps some strange kind of reincarnation where John the Baptist was now back in the body of Jesus. Their thinking was distorted and confused because they had not paid attention to the details of the Word. Clearly the people thought of Jesus as yet another prophet but not the Messiah and certainly not the Messiah Who was God incarnate. That was not even entering their field of view, nor was it really entering the thinking of the disciples. It’s why Jesus turns to them and asks, “But who do you say that I am?” The response of Peter recorded in Matthew 16:16 is powerful, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” The next verse in Matthew reveals that these were inspired words, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” The point here is that apart from the revelation of the Father even the disciples would not have begun to grasp the truth of Who Jesus is. The Call of Christ sent Him into a world where the wonders and glory of Who He is are lost on a people who live in spiritual confusion. Many idols, many distorted thoughts about life after death, many misunderstandings as to what a real Messiah was and a deep unbelief in the God who loves them dearly. The Call of Christ also sent Him to a task that was invisible to the minds and eyes of the world. His task was to demonstrate perfect humanity, to be sinless in His mortality. He would do what the first Adam had failed to do. Like the progeny of the first Adam that all followed in a sin nature, this sinless One would also have a progeny by faith that would follow in His righteousness. His task was to bear the full judicial weight of the sin the world, a task that only deity could endure. His task was to fulfill all the prefiguring types that God had used as prompts to prepare the peoples understanding of this moment. The bronze serpent lifted up, the sacrificial lamb, the scapegoat from the Day of Atonement, the young Isaac bound and put upon the altar by His own father and on and on. The Call of Christ sent Him to a task that even His disciples could not see and yet Jesus unwaveringly moves forward. Clearly and openly, Jesus tells the disciples that He will suffer many things, He will be rejected by the chief priests, He will be killed and three days later He will rise again. Peter does what they all wanted to do, to take the messiah aside and correct Him. Their love for Him, though well meaning, opposed all of what His love for them was seeking to achieve. It was this well meaning act of Peter that Satan used to put a temptation before Jesus... the temptation to avoid the plans of God, the temptation to maintain the adoration of the people, to avoid sacrifice in order to gain life. Christ’s call sent Him to a people who did not know who He was nor what He was about to do. He came to a confused people, a conniving spiritual attack and to those who were His own and yet knew Him not. The Call of Christ sent Him to pay the highest costs that sin exacts, the cost of supreme suffering, the cost of supreme rejection, the cost of death. Justice demands that there be punishment for trespass and offense, Jesus was sent to meet those demands of justice which arose from the violations of a mankind that moves with a sin nature. The Call of Christ sent Him to lead the way and to be the way through death that has arisen because of sin. He is in a sense our ark, the certain destruction of the flood of man’s sin is addressed to us through the open door into the ark of Christ. This is the apex of His call. Because He is risen from the dead so shall we also rise again because of His cross. Divine justice against all sin is met in Christ and claimed through faith in Him. The Call of Christ was to a lost and blind people who did not understand.
II. The Command of Christ. The Command of Christ to all the people and to all who would be His disciple is:
1. Deny Yourself – this is a command to deliberately and intentionally live in direct opposition to your sin nature. Whenever your inclinations for self justification, self righteousness or selfishness arise and you are aware of them, then the command of Christ is to deny their appeals to express themselves, deny your self as it expresses your sin nature. Deny who you were and stand on who you are in Christ. That’s what the new Adam, Jesus, came to do, to call us to cease from the old nature and walk in the new.
2. Take Up Your Cross - the cross was an implement of death. The condemned man carried or took up his cross on the way to imminent execution. For us to take up our cross is to willingly and steadfastly adhere to that which brings eternal life. That’s what it meant to Jesus. The proclaiming of the person and words of Jesus will bring persecution, pain and rejection and it will feel like you are losing your life for Christ’s sake and for the gospels sake. The cross as an implement of death causes the death of our old selves to occur, the carnal and godless part of who we were. When it comes to being well thought of, that old self will value the opinion of a total stranger over the opinion of Almighty God when it comes to standing for Christ. The cross is the command to execute that old nature and to steadfastly proclaim life in Christ.
3. Follow Me - this part of the Command of Christ instructs us follow Jesus as Jesus followed the Father. It involved an absolute trust that placed your life in the hands of One in higher authority. You were still responsible to walk and choose direction but the trust was that your life was perfectly being cared for by a Supreme and Sovereign authority. The Command of Christ is to follow after Jesus and that means trusting Him with your life. But that’s not all, to follow after Jesus also means that we seek to move with the same desire for obedience to the Father’s will that He did. That will be flawed in us but the desire ought to be there nonetheless. Lastly to follow after Jesus means that your life ought to bear fruit and what is the fruit on a tree but the reproduction of life encapsulated in an appealing and sweet encasement. There’s the flesh of the apple but more important there’s the apple seed. Let your life be that sweet and appealing encasement that has within it the truth of the seed of life. The seed that invites others to taste and see that the Lord is good. It is the seed that invites people to honesty with God, to agree with Him about the presence of our sin nature and reach out to the Father for forgiveness through the salvation of Jesus Christ. The seed within is Christ Himself.
Trust, Obey, Be Fruitful, that’s what it means to follow after Jesus.For those who will receive the Command of Christ there will be a life that has been well spent, there will be no condemnation for those who are in Christ, there will be no shame at His Second Coming. Let your reception into glory reflect His.