September 20, 2015: Who Do You Say I Am?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, You alone are the Son of God Who came to earth to save our eternal souls. You, alone, guard and protect us from the evil one. Without You our lives are literally nothing. So, today cause us to examine our commitment to You and to make both our words about You and our actions match up. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR LORD!

TEXT: Mark 8: 27-35

Dearly Beloved By Christ:
If you were to write a story of a famous person you knew very well, obviously you’d include personal interactions and episodes of both them and you. And if you said or did something to embarrass that famous person and they corrected you, my guess is you’d leave it out. After all, who wants to write a story in which they appear silly? But, right here, St. Peter refuses to do that! Peter dictated Mark’s Gospel to him. Mark was Peter’s secretary. And to me, it speaks volumes about the authenticity of this Gospel that Peter wasn’t concerned so much as to how he came across in this Gospel, as to how Christ comes across.

Jesus and His disciples are journeying through the northern circuit of Galilee. He’s done miracles and taught thousands. Have the disciples learned anything by all this? So, He asks a seemingly innocuous question: “Who do people say I am?” The disciples give Him a straight answer: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” In other words, the masses were still trying to figure out this miracle worker. Then, Jesus asks: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Peter responds for them all with: “You are the Messiah.” Today, Christ poses that same question to each of you:

WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?

I

There are really only two answers to that question. Either Jesus is just another man, like us, or He is the Son of God. The common answer today is that Jesus is just another human being, albeit an important one. People give that answer both in what they say about Him and how they act. For example, how many “celebrities” wear crosses around their neck? To them it’s some kind of fashion statement. But those same folks curse Jesus’ name, never darken a church door, and routinely break the 6th commandment with multiple sex partners. TMZ trumpets this type of behavior almost every night. I suppose these are rabbit’s foot hanger-oners. They are hedging their bets without any true commitment.

Others are more honest, but just as wrong in their answer. The colleges and universities are full of professors who think Christ was a deluded misfit. He was just a man, like us, who hoodwinked superstitious country folk. Others in that same classification write all this talk of Christ off as a myth that never really happened. The Romans thought Christ a weakling. Think of Pilate and how he sent Christ off to His death after asking how many divisions of troops He commanded. Perhaps one of the more popular views is that Jesus is on par with Mohammed and Abraham and from Him stems one of the three “great” religions of the world. But none of these proponents say that Christ was the Eternal Son of God, do they? None teach the singularity of Christianity.

I’ve just listed the hard-core unbelievers and their answers to that question: “Who Do You Say I Am?” But there’s a soft-core group of unbelievers, too. Many inhabit pulpits across our nation today. They teach and promote that Jesus is just a good friend to hopeless people. Or that He was an important teacher of moral platitudes. Or, that He was a story-book character who is needed by many as a psychological crutch to pull them out of tough times. But, again, they refuse to acknowledge Him as the Messiah, the Savior sent from God. Such people use Christ’s name in conversation as an afterthought and follow His teachings only insofar it fits their lifestyle.

II

After Peter gave his amazing answer to our question, Jesus re-taught them what was coming and what being the Messiah really meant. He told them of His upcoming rejection by the powers that be, of His coming death for the sins of the world, and also His glorious resurrection—something only the Son of God could do! Peter didn’t like this negative talk. It was hard to take and didn’t fit his own happy narrative that he had envisioned. So, Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked or chided Him about such negativity. “But Jesus then rebuked Peter: ‘Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.'”

Right here, after giving His great confession of Christ: “You are the Messiah!” Peter turns into a dunce! Thirty years later when Peter had Mark write this down, he’s not afraid to show his stupidity, either. That’s because everything Jesus said came true! He did suffer and die on the cross. He did say: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” He did lie in the grave 3 days. He did rise to life again. He did ascend before their eyes into heaven. And He did send the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as He promised. Yes, Jesus was and is the promised Messiah! He was and is the Eternal Son of God Who kept every single prophecy concerning the Messiah. He was and is the only Savior of the world!

What strikes me about Peter’s rebuke of Christ and Jesus’ answer to it is this: even well-intentioned, knowledgeable Christians can and do give really mixed signals when it comes to that question: “Who Do You Say I Am?” For example, if Jesus really is the Son of God, why would we ever consider public, weekly worship of Him an option? Why would we misuse His name or use it as an afterthought? Why wouldn’t we speak up when others mock Christianity? Why would we discount parts of God’s Word that don’t fit the modern narrative since Jesus is the Word made flesh and it is ultimately all about Him? And why don’t we go to Scripture first for answers to our problems instead of using it as a last resort when human wisdom fails? Go to a hospital and you’ll find a lot of “last resort Christians” there! If God is good enough to rely on when you’re helpless, isn’t He good enough to rely on all the time?

WHO DO YOU SAY I AM? Still resonates today and it always will. How you answer that question and how you live out your answer is what we call “bearing the cross.” Christ speaks of that here: “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.” That statement is a paradox. To the plain human mind it seemingly makes no sense. It seems contradictory. But, to the mind of God Who knows all and resolves all, it is pure truth. Peter learned that lesson anew after his denial of Christ in the courtyard of the High Priest. The resurrected Lord appearing to him outside the tomb and forgiving him cemented that new-found insight. We’d say: “Peter was a slow learner,” wouldn’t we? Well, after today you don’t have to be a slow-learner any more. Amen