Mark 8-9 But who do you say that I am?

From Mark 8-9

40 41 42 43 Gospel Jesus is risen Christ thumb

Today’s passage marks the centre of the gospel according to Mark. Caesarea Philippi is the place where Jesus asks a significant question of his disciples. Here he also changes direction from north to south. Who do you say Jesus is? Are you prepared to follow him where he is headed?

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

Up until now Jesus has been proclaiming the coming kingdom of God. He has been teaching many things about the kingdom and ushering it in by healing sickness, casting out demons and displaying his authority in a variety of ways. In today’s passage Jesus introduces something new. Something his disciples did not expect.

[27] And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” [28] And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” (Mk 8:27-28)

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If we asked the same question of people today, I suspect we would receive a variety of different responses. Some might say Jesus didn’t exist. Others might say he was a good man and teacher. Some might go so far and say he was a prophet from God, but he has been superseded. Others might say something more about him.

In first century Israel the Jews had a shared history recorded in scripture. They had the promises and prophecies of God which they longed to see fulfill. The disciples respond repeating what they have heard. Some say Jesus is John the Baptist raised from the dead, others various figures from their history.

Fair enough, they answer Jesus’ question. Jesus drives his intended point further.

[29] And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” [30] And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. (Mk 8:29-30)

Jesus says ‘but’. A little and important word. Why do you think Jesus says ‘but’?

Jesus wants to ask the question of them. Who do they think he is. After all he has seen and heard of Jesus, Peter illuminated by the Spirit says he is the Christ. The promised Christ.

“Christ or Christos (Gk.) means ‘Messiah and anointed one’. The root of the verb chrio, in Greek meant ‘to smear, rub, spread.’ In the LXX, because of the connection with ‘rubbing or smearing oil,’ the term was associated with ‘one who had been anointed, or set apart, for a special task.’ In the Hebrew Bible, the ‘anointed ones’ were the king and the high priest, occasionally a prophet (all three offices are associated with Jesus; cf Jn 6.14; Heb 9.11; Rev 19.16). In later Jewish writings in Greek, Christos came to mean ‘the Messiah.’ The Christ is the expected, ‘end time,’ messianic figure and the title draws upon God’s promise to David of an unending heir to his throne (2 Sam 7.14). This era would be initiated by a figure who would actualise the promise of the end time reign of David’s line.” (‘Christ’, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Loc 4917 of 55513)

Jesus commands them not to tell anyone. Why? Two reasons come to mind.

First, given their knowledge of the promises and prophecies in scripture, Jesus wants people to come to their own opinion of who he is from his words and deeds without people telling them outright. In another gospel Jesus says the Father reveals it (Mt 16.17) and I suspect by his Spirit (1 Cor 12.3).

Second, if people were told who he was they would either think he was a liar, lunatic or Lord. Most may not believe. Some might want to make him King. Other might want to kill him. Jesus wants to slow things down, he doesn’t want to attract large crowds and again he wants people to make their own minds about him.

Jesus has been heading north. He has reached Caesarea Philippi. Now he turns around. He begins his last trek to Jerusalem.

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[31] And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. [32] And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. [33] But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Mk 8:31-33)

When Jesus turns around in order to head to Jerusalem, he is deeply aware of what will happen there.

Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man.

This is a messianic title used by Jesus to express his heavenly origin, earthly mission, and glorious future coming. The specific source of the term is Daniel 7:13, 14, with its vision of one “like a son of man” who “comes with the clouds” into the presence of “the Ancient of Days” who gives him the universal and eternal kingdom of God. Jesus repeatedly quoted parts of this text in teaching about his second coming (Mt 16:27; 19:28; 24:30; 25:31; 26:64). Clearly, Jesus understood this passage as a prophetic portrayal of his own person: his incarnation, ascension, and inheritance of the kingdom of God. (Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1983). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.)

The Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected by the Jewish authorities and killed and after three days he will rise from the dead.

Jesus knows the specifics of what is about to happen to him. Knowing this he could avoid it if he wanted. But he doesn’t. He knows the scriptures foretell and it is His Father’s plan.

He says this plainly. He is not speaking in riddles and they all understand it.

Peter doesn’t like what he heard and it wasn’t what he expected. He oversteps his authority and seems to think he can order Jesus around. Jesus rebukes him and calls him Satan. We know early on Satan tried to tempt Jesus away from his mission (Mt 4.1-11). Was Peter partly under the control of Satan at this point? I suspect he was. Planting ideas in his head, feeding his pride.

Peter had lost sight of what God was about. Perhaps in part he did not realise the significance of the death and resurrection of Christ. A significant element in his thinking was probably the installation of a worldly kingdom. Jesus’ kingdom was not meant to be like the kingdoms of this world.

So Jesus says something about what it is like to keep one’s mind on the things of God.

[34] And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. [35] For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. [36] For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? [37] For what can a man give in return for his soul? [38] For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

9 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” (Mk 8.34-9.1)

Following Jesus means denying oneself. Jesus says one must pick up a cross and follow him.

What do you think carrying a cross signified to people in first century Judea?

People who carried a cross were typically going to die on them. Im sure there is an element of public shame and a certainty of painful death. This is not an easy instruction.

Jesus speaks about salvation. Saving one’s life. At face value Jesus is speaking about physical life. Life in our bodies. Later on however Jesus speaks about souls. The concepts are not separated in Jewish thought. Jesus is not encouraging people to save their lives. Rather to lose them for something greater.

Lose your life for Jesus and his gospel and you will be saved.

The instruction says those who want salvation must actively do something to be saved. Deny himself. Pick up the way they will die. Follow Jesus.

Jesus affirms the immense value of each person’s soul.  It is the most precious thing each person has. Souls can be lost. So while Jesus describes a tough and perhaps short lived life, in return people who do as he has instructed will not have their souls taken away from them.

Jesus puts himself in the centre of all these decisions. Those who are ashamed of him and reject him will receive the same by Jesus when he returns. They belong to the adulterous and sinful generation. Jesus knows he will return again in glory and power.

There are ‘some standing here’ who will not die until they see the ushered in kingdom of God. What he says more likely refers to what happens after he is raised from the dead. When Jesus is raised the Spirit comes. The kingdom of God has been ushered in. God’s people exist in it already, even though it is not yet complete.

About Jesus

Who do you think Jesus is? Peter says he is the Christ. Which means he is the king and Lord of all.

What are your expectations about him and his role? Peter had misunderstood what the things of God were about. Perhaps he pictured an easier way of life. Full of victory and ruling over others. Jesus paints a picture quite opposite. Denial, suffering and Following Jesus. This is a cruciform life.

Are you prepared to lose your life and follow him?

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.