Mark 8:27-37  Jesus the Messiah


You are in the hospital outpatients waiting room. One rather self important individual is getting impatient. Unwilling to queue, they barge in and demand to be seen by the doctor. “Don’t you know who I am?” Shouted the man. The secretary calmly presses the button on the microphone of her loudspeaker system and asks the waiting patients. “I have a gentleman here who doesn’t know who he is. Can someone please assist him in finding out. Thank you.”

Who am I? The world out there has plenty of ideas. Some would say I am who I was - quest for our ancestors to help define us. Others insist I am what I achieve. For others I am what I drive. Many believe I am how I look. In our community I am where I live. For some I am what I eat. For many I am what I do. For some I am who I love. For some I am what I know.  For others I am who I know. For lots of people I am what I possess. Many are trapped not knowing who they really are. Who am I? You will never know who you are until you decide on Jesus.  Because Jesus says, I am who I follow. Jesus is our eternal reference point - our magnetic north pole - our compass - the way, the truth and the life. When we find him, we find ourselves.  Our passage today comprises three paragraphs:

The Ultimate Question about
Jesus (8:27-30)

The Unambiguous Calling of Jesus (8:31-33)

The Uncompromising Commission from Jesus (8:34-38)


1. The Ultimate Question about Jesus (Mark 8:27-30)

 “Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?"  They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets."  "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ." Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.” (Mark 8:27-30)


The first half of Mark’s gospel is designed to answer just one question.  Mark 1:1-8:26 answers the ultimate question Jesus poses in 8:27. Who am I? Having answered this first question, Mark 8:27-16:20 goes on to answer a second question - why did Jesus come? Only when we have answered the first can we begin to understand the second. Mark 8:27-30 is therefore the highpoint - the watershed of the gospel of Mark. If you were to go around asking your friends, “What do people say about me?” Or “Who do you say I am?” they might take it as an evidence of pride or dementia. But what we believe and say about Jesus Christ will determine our destiny.  Your answer is a matter of life or death.

The citizens of Caesarea Philippi might affirm, “
Caesar is lord!”  Such a confession might identify them as loyal Roman citizens. But it would never save them from their sins or deal with their eternal separation from God.  Some thought Jesus was John the Baptist.  Some said he was one of the prophets, like Jeremiah. That is how Muslims typically view Jesus today. Twice this week I have spoken at conferences where the majority of those present were Muslim. On Wednesday evening I was picked up from the airport in Glasgow by two young Muslim students. Born and raised in Glasgow they knew very little about Christianity. The first question I was asked when I got in the car was could I please explain the difference between Islam and Christianity. I gently explained that it all had to do with who we think Jesus is.

In His words and His works,
Jesus gave every evidence to the people that He was the Son of God, the Messiah, and yet they did not get the message. Earlier in chapter 8:1-12 we see Jesus feeding the 4000, just as God had fed the Israelites in the wilderness, yet like their ancesters they still insisted on another sign from heaven. You can sense Jesus exasperation in verse 12, ‘He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it."’  Then in verses 8:14-21 Jesus asks the disciples a series of questions about this and the earlier miracle of the feeding of the 5000. It seems in frustration,

‘He said to them, "Do you still not understand?"’ (Mark
8:21). To the question “who do you say I am?” Peter’s confession appears bold and uncompromising, just as ours should be: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” (Matt. 16:16) The word Messiah, or Christ as it is translated in Greek, means “the Anointed One, the promised one.” Prophets, priests, and kings were all anointed before they began to serve.

Jesus fulfilled all three roles.  So why does Jesus warn them to keep quiet about this? As we see in the very next few verses the disciples themselves still had much to learn about Him and what it truly meant to follow Him. The disciples would only truly begin to understand what kind of Saviour Jesus was until after the cross and resurrection.  How much more so for the ordinary people who flocked to hear Jesus. They were looking for a political Messiah. The last thing Jesus wanted was to lead a revolution against the hated Roman authorities. The disciples needed to know who Jesus claimed to be but they could not proclaim it until they understood why Jesus had come.

So, the ultimate question is: Who do you say I am? Have you answered
Jesus? The ultimate question about Jesus (8:27-30).

2. The Unambiguous Calling of
Jesus (8:31-33)

“He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and 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 things of God, but the things of men." (Mark 8:31-33)

Having confessed their faith in Him, Jesus began to explain why he had come.  He was going to Jerusalem where He would die on a cross as the Passover lamb. This announcement stunned the disciples. If He is indeed the Christ of God, as they had confessed, why would He be rejected by the religious leaders? Why would they crucify Him?

Didn’t the Hebrew Scriptures promise that Messiah would defeat all their enemies and establish a glorious kingdom for
Israel? There was something wrong somewhere and the disciples were confused.  True to character, it was Peter who voiced their concern. One minute Peter was led by God to confess his faith in Jesus Christ, and the next minute he was thinking like an unbeliever. Indeed expressing the thoughts of Satan. This is a warning to us that when we argue with God’s Word, we open the door for Satan’s doubts and deceptions. Peter began rebuking his Master, and Mark uses the same word that describes how Jesus rebuked the demons.

Peter’s protest was born out of his love for his Lord but also his ignorance of God’s word. One minute Peter was a “rock,” and the next minute he was a stumbling block. Peter did not yet understand the relationship between suffering and glory.  When Jesus rebuked Peter, He looked at His disciples for they too needed to hear.  When we are tempted to try and mould Jesus into the kind of Jim will fix it kind of Messiah our materialistic generation is seeking, we must hear this same rebuke.  “The Son of Man must suffer” said Jesus. He uniquely came to die in our place. To atone for our wrong doing.

The controversy over Mel Gibson’s new film “The Passion of the Christ” centres on whether it blames the Jews for the death of Jesus and may incite anti-Semitism. Not so, says James Caviezel who plays Jesus. “We’re all culpable in the death of Christ”, he says, “My sins put him up there. Yours did. That is what this story is about.” Mel Gibson was led to produce the film after a rough stretch in his life. “The Holy Ghost was working through me in this film” he said. The wounds of Christ healed his wounds. This was Jesus unique calling.

The ultimate question about
Jesus (8:27-30).
The unambiguous calling of
Jesus (8:31-38).


3. The Uncompromising Commission from Jesus (8:34-38)

‘Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."’ (Mark 8:34-38)


Jesus calls us to follow Him, to take up our cross and follow him.  The world doesn’t understand the cost of being a Christ-follower. Because it doesn’t understand who Christ is it cannot understand what Christ has done for us.  Mark 8:34 indicates that, though Jesus and His disciples had met in private, the crowds were not far away. Jesus summons the people and teaches them what He has taught His own disciples: there is a price to pay for true discipleship.

3.1 We must walk with Christ

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)


3.2 We must sacrifice for Christ

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35)


Jesus then asks two questions to crystalise the issue.

Question 1: is about profit or loss
(Mark 8:36)

Mark 8:36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? The first question asks us what we value most? Most people gain none of the world, a few gain some of the world, but no one has ever gained the whole world.

The world is full of temptations towards profitable dishonesty.
George MacDonald tells of the draper who used his thumb to shorten each yard measure of cloth by a few inches. In a life time he took from his soul and put it in his pocket. Shakespeare paints the picture of Wolsey, the great Cardinal, who served Henry the Eighth, with all the ingenuity and wit he possessed, "Had I but served my God with half the zeal I served my king, he would not in mine age have left me naked to mine enemies."  The real question, the question that everyone in the end will have to face is not, "What did people think of me?", but "what does God think of me?"

Question 2: is about fair exchange

Mark 8:37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Answer: Absolutely Nothing. One translation puts it "what can a man give to buy back his life", the idea being that he has already lost it by making a fatal choice. For the soul there is no equivalent. When it has once been lost at death it cannot be relived or recovered. Time travels in one direction. We never get a second go at it. Profit or loss? Fair exchange? 2 Questions we must each answer for ourselves.


We must walk with Christ

We must sacrifice for Christ

3.3 We must confess our

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory” (Mark 8:38)


If we live for ourselves, we will lose ourselves, but if we lose ourselves for His sake and the Gospel’s, we will find ourselves. From the human point of view, we are losing ourselves, but from the divine perspective, we are finding ourselves. When we live for Christ, we become more like Him, and this brings out our own unique individuality. We become the person God intended for us.  But note the motivation for true discipleship: “for me and for the Gospel” (Mark 8:35).

To lose yourself for
Jesus and for the gospel is not an act of desperation; it is an act of devotion. James Caviezel was asked how he felt about playing Jesus. He replied, “I love him more than I never knew possible. I love him more than my wife, my family. I don’t want people to see me. All I want them to see is Jesus Christ.”  Is that how you feel? Are you ashamed of Jesus or honoured to be associated with Jesus

Who am I? It depends on what I make of
Jesus.  When we find him, we find ourselves. Then we find that we are not an evolutionary accident. We are more than our exam grades. More than a number, a grade, a class, a rank, a status, a postcode, a space in the company car park, a seat in the boardroom.  We are what God says about us. That is really all that matters. Who am I?  If I have received Jesus as my Lord and Saviour he is my brother. God becomes not just my creator but my heavenly Father. “The difference between Christianity and Islam,” I said, as we drove away from Glasgow airport, “is that the One you call Allah, I can call Abba - Daddy, because of what Jesus has done in our place.”

The Ultimate Question about
Jesus (8:27-30)

The Unambiguous Calling of Jesus (8:31-33)

The Uncompromising Commission from Jesus (8:34-38)

Lets pray.