Just want to remind you that you have the opportunity today to contribute to our conversation today by responding to today’s question that was posed earlier. That question again is, “Who do you say Jesus is, and what does that mean to you?” Send your responses to us on our text line at 419.617.xxxx, email your responses to jmotter, or post your response on our Facebook page. You still have a few minutes to get your responses in.
Jesus and his disciples have been traveling all over Galilee, even venturing into Gentile territory. Along the way, the disciples have been experiencing a very intense apprenticeship, but from this point on, as he begins his journey toward Jerusalem, things will get even more intense. Today’s passage is the turning point in the Gospel of Mark. As they arrive near the Roman town of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus pauses to ask his disciples some questions.
The first was the easier of the two questions. He asked, “Who do people say that I am?” It’s a question of reputation. The peoples’ opinions had been formed by what they had heard about Jesus’ activity – teaching in parables, preaching about the Kingdom of God, healing the sick, feeding multitudes of 5,000 and 4,000, raising the dead, all with amazing authority. The crowds understood Jesus was someone sent by God. The disciples were quick to report that the people were saying that Jesus is “John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets” (Mk 8:28).
Who do people today say Jesus is? I wonder how aware we are of how people in our culture view Jesus. Let’s watch this short video from Christ Fellowship in Florida to find out who people say Jesus is. (Roll video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erK28tenDnA)
Interesting responses? Surprised by what you saw? Maybe we, the Church who follow Jesus Christ, have more work to do.
Jesus asked his disciples who people said he is, and then he moved to a more pointed question: “And you, who do you say that I am?” Peter, so often the disciple to speak first, responded, “You are the Messiah.” (Mark 8:29) His answer, it turns out, is technically correct, but his logical and his application turn out to be off the mark. The term “Messiah” in Hebrew or “Christ” in Greek was associated in Jewish tradition with an anointed king, a royal figure in the line of David who was expected to come and free Israel from their Gentile oppressors, purify the people, and restore Israel’s independence, power, and glory. But nothing in Jesus’ ministry to this point has suggested any royal, political, or military ambitions. Jesus has made no claim to be the Messiah, and he has not taken on the Romans. Maybe Peter is hoping that, as they turn toward Jerusalem, Jesus will finally take on this role as Messiah. That might be why Jesus warns them to tell no one, because he knows that they are still so far from understanding what he is all about.
The question Jesus asked the disciples is critical for Christians today. We profess our faith in baptism and any other time we repeat the words of the Apostles’ Creed (or any other creed). We say, in part, “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again, he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God and will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
So, who do you say Jesus is? I’m inviting Pastors Becky and Cathy to join me as we share and discuss your responses, as well as our own views on who Jesus is. As they come, let me thank you for your responses on our Facebook page this week and today, our text line, and my email.
(Share and discuss responses received. Highlight our own understandings, realizing that we each emphasize various aspects of Jesus’ identity and role. Also, consider the implications of viewing Jesus in these ways – what does it lead us to?)
Thank you again for submitting your responses and to Pastors Becky and Cathy for helping us think about who Jesus is.
In our passage, Jesus continued by telling the disciples that in Jerusalem, he would suffer, be rejected, be killed, and rise after three days. But that was too much for Peter; he tried to convince Jesus to stop talking about such things. Peter’s expectations did not align with Jesus’.
But Jesus went further and offered an invitation: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). Not what the disciples expected the Messiah to say. And not what we want to hear either. We’d rather hear about how following Jesus will be easy and make life comfortable and how everything will fall into place; about how we’ll be rewarded with great treasures and joy for giving the right answer to the question about who Jesus is.
It would be nice to be able to say that we get who Jesus is and what he expects of us. But friends, the life of discipleship is a journey, not an instantaneous accomplishment. In it, we express both our faith and our fears. It is a process of continually seeking to express our faith and who we understand Jesus to be, as well as striving with our difficulties with Jesus’ identity and his mission, so he can continually correct them.
The question, “Who do you say Jesus is?” invites us to continue exploring what we say we believe and with the Holy Spirit’s help, to align our way of living with Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God, so that the world may know and receive God’s gracious invitation also. May it be so. Amen.