Who Do You Say That I Am?

May 22, 2016

A reminder to readers: We’re in the thick of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will continue to cover the Gospel of Mark over the next few months.

Mark 8:27-9:1

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

CONSIDER THIS

Today’s daily text falls at the exact center of Mark’s gospel. It is a pivotal turning point in Mark’s gospel. After this passage, the focus turns to the journey to Jerusalem, the passion and the cross. Jesus takes his disciples about thirty miles into the hills above the Sea of Galilee. It is a placed called Caesarea Philippi, dedicated to the worship of Caesar and the Greek God Pan. I have been to Caesarea Philippi and the very spot where Jesus had this conversation. Right there in the side of the hill is a massive gaping hole that goes down into the earth. It was known in the first century as the “gates of hell” which, quite dramatically, Jesus makes reference to in this passage. But, it is there at the seat of emperor worship and the worship of false idols where Jesus gathers his disciples together and asks them two questions: “who do people say that I am?” and second, “who do you say I am?”

The two questions cannot really be separated out, because the whole point is to draw a sharp contrast between the assessment of outsiders regarding who Jesus is and the insight of the disciples, to whom it has been revealed (Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my father in heaven – Matt. 16:17). Private opinions versus divine revelation.

One of the most important lessons which the contemporary church needs to be reminded of is the difference between private opinion and divine revelation. So many issues in the church today are decided by majority votes or by listening to the ever shifting winds of public opinion. Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and, still others, one of the prophets.” Today, as then, you will find a wide diversity of views in society regarding who Jesus Christ is. The world is quite happy to call Jesus a remarkable teacher, even a miracle worker, yea, even a great prophet, but will never confess him in his full dignity. It takes courage to remember the church’s testimony concerning Jesus. It takes God’s grace to remember Gods’ revelation about who Jesus Christ is. The whole tide of human history stands against us in our confession as to who Jesus is. Who do people say that I am? It is a question which will get the same kind of answers today as it was given 2,000 years ago. But then, Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” The entire gospel of Mark has been leading us up to this point. Note that Jesus is not asking for Peter’s personal opinion in the way that it is used today for “personal preference.” Today, the world is happy for us to have our own personal preferences regarding how we “do our spirituality.” They claim that if worshipping Jesus makes your spiritual boat float that’s fine, but if another person’s spirituality is best nurtured through Buddhism or through transcendental meditation, why would we seek to impose our “personal spiritual preferences” on him or her? To the world, this is like insisting that someone who prefers Wendy’s go to Pizza Hut. This is not the biblical view.

Peter responds and says, “you are the Christ, Son of the Living God.” This is the response of faith to God’s revelation of himself. Jesus goes on to tell Peter that even though he knows who Jesus is, he does not yet understand the full cost of this faith. It will involve discouragement, betrayal, suffering, and even death. Are we really prepared to travel a narrow road, filled with disgrace, and one which passes through the eye of a needle, and up a hill called Golgotha? We cannot shrink back if we are to truly confess Christ. There is no easy bypass which leads us around the suffering of the cross to the empty tomb of resurrection morning. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” This has not changed. We call this the cost of discipleship.

THE QUESTIONS

1. Do you find it increasingly vulnerable to confess your faith in Jesus Christ?
2. What are some practical ways you can testify to your confidence in God’s Word as revelation from God?

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The Sunday Daily Text through Mark’s Gospel is written by Timothy Tennent. Visit his blog here.

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