Yesterday, as we continue to move through the Gospel of Mark, I preached from Mark 8:27-30 in a sermon titled, “The Most Important Question in This Life.” The context provides us the location of this occasion as Jesus is with His disciples in the villages of Caesarea Philippi. The eighth chapter of Mark serves as a transitional point in the story of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He is starting to spend a good deal of time with the inner circle of disciples in preparation for the climax of His earthly ministry which will come as He is nailed to a Roman cross.
As Jesus was walking with His disciples, He posed a question to them. In fact, it wasn’t just any question. It was a very important question. He asked, “Who do people say that I am” (Mark 8:27)? The disciples provided a list of answers to Jesus’ question. According to the disciples, some said Jesus was John the Baptist. Others said He was Elijah. Some people proposed that He was one of the prophets of old. In a surface overview, we may miss the importance of these possibilities. In reality, we learn much about Jesus from the cultural opinions of Jesus’ identity.
For instance, after Herod had John the Baptist killed, the popularity of Jesus started to rise. People were trying to figure out who Jesus was. Herod claimed that Jesus was John the Baptist who had resurrected from the dead. This was a fearful thing for Herod, but it gives us a glimpse into the preaching ministry of Jesus. If Jesus was confused with John the Baptist – imagine how Jesus must have preached. Needless to say, He was no Mr. Milquetoast. The same thing could be said of the other two suggestions – Elijah or one of the prophets of old. Elijah was a bold and courageous prophet who once stood against the 450 prophets of Baal and after God blazed the alter with fire and Baal was publicly humiliated, Elijah chased down the prophets and slaughtered them. The prophets of God were not known to be pushovers. Modern day Christology is filled with deficient images of Jesus that simply don’t suffice. If Jesus was mistaken as John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the old prophets – He was no pushover.
Jesus then turned to narrow the question. He said, “But who do you say that I am” (Mark 8:29)? Indeed, this is the most important question that a person will answer in this life. This question is narrow, personal, and confrontational. It causes a person to deal with the identity of Jesus, but as a result, it causes a person to do a self evaluation at the same time. It forces us to face important questions about Jesus. As C.S. Lewis framed the question – Is Jesus a liar? Is Jesus a lunatic? Is Jesus Lord God? These disciples had traveled with Jesus, heard His sermons, witnessed His miracles, and now they were faced with a very powerful question – indeed the most important question in this life – “But who do you say that I am?”
As we consider our own lives, it’s not enough to think about what popular opinion of Jesus is in our day. The politicians place Him on level ground next to Allah and other world religions. Bumper sticker theology provides a very shallow view of Jesus. Hollywood tampers with and profanes biblical Christology. The cults attack the deity of Jesus. On the average college campus, Jesus is merely another figure from history or perhaps – a topic to consider in philosophy 101. It’s not enough to consider the multiplicity of views provided by our culture. The question remains – who do you say Jesus is?
The answer to this question is where your eternal destiny hinges. Take time to consider the preaching of Jesus, His many miracles, and the resurrection of Christ. Don’t approach Jesus as you approach the idols of this world. He is no idol. In the words of C.S. Lewis from The Chronicles of Narnia, “He is no tame lion.” John 3:36 is abundantly clear, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Will you remain under the wrath of God today? Will you step across the precipice of life and eternity under the eternal wrath of God? Why not call out to God for mercy and grace through the blood of Jesus Christ?
Peter answered the question. Peter said, “You are the Christ.” For many people, Christ is merely the last name of Jesus. However, the term Christ in the Greek literally means – the anointed One. Christ is the Messiah. As Christ – Jesus is God in human flesh. Only in Christ can a person have their sins forgiven and be reconciled to God the Father. What about you? Who is Jesus?
A.W. Tozer said, “Jesus is not one of many ways to approach God, nor is He the best of several ways; He is the only way.”