Based on a recent sermon using the Bible passage Mark 8:27-38
In this passage we find that Jesus is in the villages around Caesarea Philippi. Before it was Caesarea Philippi it was known as Baal Hermon and Baal Gad in the Old Testament period. Later it was named Panias after the Greek god Pan who was worshiped here. It was enlarged by Herod Philip, and named after Caesar, with his own name added to distinguish it from Caesarea.
I want to consider this passage under three headings,
You know what they say!
Before moving to the Midlands last year I spent 20 years on the south coast of England on Portland. I remember from about year 3 on Portland, every other year it would seem, I would hear reports that I was going to be leaving next year. Well eventually they were right! If you had ears you could hear what “they say”. Ministers often get told what “they say”. “They” don’t like that, they are upset. “They” don’t want the time changed, or the seating changed or another meeting or that new fangled idea!
Of course it is not only ministers that get told what they say. There is a story of the British Wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill. During his last year in office, he attended an official ceremony. Several rows behind him two men began whispering. "That's Winston Churchill." "They say he is getting senile." "They say he should step aside and leave the running of the nation to more dynamic and capable men." When the ceremony was over, apparently Churchill turned to the men and said, "Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf!"
Jesus in this passage ask what do “they say”?
‘Who do people say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’
In Matthew’s account (Chapter 16) there is an addition to that,
They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
On the face of it sounds complimentary. But there are such things as backhanded compliments. For instance,
“He looks lovely. I like both his faces”
“I always feel more intelligent after reading your thoughts and ideas”
“Thanks for making me feel better about my own problems”
“You’re extremely reliable sometimes”
Generally both Elijah and John were seen as forerunners to the Christ/Messiah and some people believed they would return to herald the Messiah. Messiah literally means “anointed”. Jewish people believed the Messiah would come to bring deliverance to the Jewish nation. So John, Elijah, Jeremiah – it was a kind of compliment but something missing.
Today lots of people compliment Jesus (often their problem is with the Church). They think he was a good man or maybe a prophet. I’ve met various atheists who respect him. All kinds of people like Jesus and what he stood for when he helped the poor and oppressed, but that is not enough!
Jesus asking the disciples about what “they say” seems to be the way in to a more pointed question. ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
The debate and discussion about what “they say” is fascinating but Jesus says to each one – who do you say that I am?
Do you recognise me – as God with you?
Do you realise that I am the one who came to get you out of the mess and consequences caused by sin?
Do you know me?
Who do you say I am?
Today who do you say I am?
As Jesus says those words what is your response?
‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
In a moment of revelation Peter says
Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’
This was a radical response. It could threaten the religious establishment and this happens in a region with royal connections. Could threaten the Roman establishment too. It is indeed amazing how threatened people can feel by Jesus.
This passage follows the healing of a blind man. Some scholars think that these passages run together because the disciples are about to have their eyes opened. Are our eyes open today?
I don’t know our background. Maybe every one of us has confessed Jesus as the anointed chosen one of God who came on behalf of God to bring us back to him. Or maybe not everyone reading this has said to themselves and others. “You are the one” about Jesus. He challenges us to choose. And a prophet or good man or backhanded compliments won’t do. I am impressed by the words of C S Lewis from his book Mere Christianity,
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
After this stunning response from Jesus we read “Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.” (Perhaps this was because they didn’t yet understand what being Messiah meant, or maybe even because he wanted people to discover from him and not from the disciples.)
“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.”
So the Messiah has been confessed and Jesus has acknowledged he is the Messiah by telling the disciples not to tell anyone. If it is important that the disciples see him as the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one, then it is also important that they recognise him as God appointed and not appointed by humans. And here Jesus is pointing at the sort of Messiah he is. He doesn’t fit in with our ideas and opinion about salvation. IT was understandable that the Jewish people who lived under occupation wanted a Messiah who would bring release and freedom. But Jesus did not come to bring political salvation, or military salvation. He came to bring something far deeper. He came to bring spiritual salvation, which in turn brings freedom in the other areas of our lives. The challenging thing is that the way to that is a way of suffering. Well Peter is unhappy with the idea of the Messiah suffering. Maybe because having recognised Jesus as Messiah Peter has some preconceived ideas about what that means. Maybe we have preconceived ideas about how God should interact with this world and our lives.
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.’ In Matthew’s account there is a little extra. (Mark is often short to the point.)
Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’
Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Then Matthew’s gospel continues, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’
Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’
One minute Peter is going to be a rock for Jesus and then he is a block, a stumbling block to Jesus. Rock or Block – what are we for God?
Have you been on a white-knuckle ride? I think the worst for me was the Big One in Blackpool. What a roller coaster ride for Peter. The highs of being pointed to as foundational in Christ’s Church and a moment later being called Satan.
Be careful lest we think we can tell Jesus how he should do his work.
Maybe we do.
Maybe we criticise Jesus. Why did that have to happen? Why couldn’t there be an easier way?
Such questions are natural, but there is a difference between a question and telling Jesus how to do things.
Maybe we know exactly how the work of Christ’s Church should be done rather than waiting on Christ.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: (in other words “I say”) ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 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? 38 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.’
Not only is the way of the Messiah one of suffering but those who follow the Messiah find it is their way too. This is not a comment about suffering generally. Followers of Christ do not have a monopoly on suffering. This is about suffering persecution, taking up the cross related to our faith and because of our faith. That is the offer today. Follow Jesus – and suffer.
That’s a difficult sell! But paradoxically it is the way to life.
In dying to self we live.
In losing life we find life.
There is a lot of searching going on out in the World. People looking for satisfaction, fulfilment, or maybe trying to numb their self to the world.
What about today? You?
Discover who Jesus is. Find in him life. It is as we let go we receive life now and for eternity. What do we need to let die today?
‘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.’
Jesus would say – “I say” – lose your life and find it.
Follow me. Life will never be the same again.
27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’
28 They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’
29 ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’
30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
31 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. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 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.’
34 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. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 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.’