Mark 8:27-38 Who am I?
Today is Census Day. It comes round once every ten years. Its important because on the basis of the information we give, the government will decide how best to distribute our taxes and provide services for the community. So the government wants to know who you are. That presupposes that you know yourself. Tonight we are going to discover that how we answer the question, "Who am I?" is largely determined by how we answer another question, "Who is Jesus?" Who am I? I am a son and a nephew. I am a brother and brother in law. I am a husband and a father, and a vicar and friend.
But who am I? The world out there has plenty of ideas.
I am who I was "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." (1 Cor. 15:22)
I am what I achieve "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (Matt. 16:26)
I am what I drive "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction" (Matthew 7:13)
I am how I look "You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside..." (Matthew 23:27)
I am where I live - "Who ever hears my word..." (Matthew 7:24)
I am what I wear "Even Solomon in all his glory..." (Matthew 6:29)
I am what I eat "Man shall not live by bread alone..." (Matthew 4:4)
I am what I do "Many who are first will be last..." (Matthew 19:30)
I am who I love "Love the Lord your God with all your heart" (Matthew 22:37)
I am what I know "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures" (Matthew 22:29)
I am who I know "Who ever welcomes a little child welcomes me" (Matthew 18:5)
I am what I possess "Sell your possessions and give to the poor" (Matthew 19:21)
I am trapped "If you hold to my teaching you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32)
Who am I? You will never know who you are until you decide on Jesus. 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.
Mark 1:1-8:26 is all about answering just one question - who is Jesus Christ? Mark 8:27-16:20 is all about answering a second question - why did Jesus come? Only when we have answered the first, like Peter can we begin to understand the second. Mark 8:27-30 is the peak, the watershed of the gospel of Mark.
1. Confession (8: 27-30)
Hospital waiting room. One rather self important individual was getting impatient. Unwilling to queue, they barged in and demanded to be seen by the doctor. "Don't you know who I am?" Shouted the man. The secretary calmly pressed the button on the microphone of her loudspeaker system and asked 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." 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 people believe and say about Jesus Christ will detemine their destiny. Your confession concerning Jesus Christ is a matter of life or death (John 8:21, 24; 1 John 2:22-27; 4:1-3). The citizens of Caesarea Philippi would say, "Caesar is lord!" That confession might identify them as loyal Roman citizens, but it could never save them from their sins and from eternal hell. It is remarkable the number of different opinions the people held about Jesus, though the same situation probably exists today. That some thought He was John the Baptist is especially perplexing, since John and Jesus had been seen publicly together.
Some said that Jesus was one of the prophets, perhaps Jeremiah (Matt. 16:14). Jeremiah was "the weeping prophet," and Jesus was a Man of sorrows; so there is a definite parallel. Jeremiah called the people to true repentance from the heart, and so did Jesus. Both men were misunderstood and rejected by their own people.
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. Instead of diligently seeking for the truth, the people listened to popular opinion and followed it, just as many people do today. They had opinions instead of convictions, and this is what led them astray.
Elbert Hubbard defined public opinion as "the judgment of the incapable many, opposed to that of the discerning few." Thank God for the discerning few! Peter's confession was bold and uncompromising, just as ours should be: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" (Matt. 16:16) The word Christ means "the Anointed One, the promised Messiah." Prophets, priests, and kings were all anointed when installed in their offices, and our Lord holds all three offices. Why did Jesus warn them to keep quiet about Him? For one thing, the disciples themselves still had much to learn about Him and what it truly meant to follow Him. The religious leaders of the nation had already made up their minds about Him, and to proclaim Him as Messiah now would only upset God's plans. The common people wanted to see His miracles, but they had little desire to submit to His message. To announce Him as Messiah might well result in a political uprising that would only do harm.
2. Confusion (8:31-38)
Having confessed their faith in Him, Jesus began to explain why he had come to earth. He was going with them to Jerusalem where He would die on a cross. This announcement stunned the disciples. If He is indeed the Christ of God, as they had confessed, then why would He be rejected by the religious leaders? Why would these leaders crucify Him? Did not the Old Testament 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 expressed their concern. One minute Peter was led by God to confess his faith in Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:17), and the next minute he was thinking like an unbelieving man and 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 lies. Peter began rebuking his Master, and Mark used the same word that describes our Lord's rebuking of the demons (Mark 1:25; 3:12).
Peter's protest was born out of his ignorance of God's will and his deep love for his Lord. 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. Note, however, that when Jesus rebuked Peter, He also "looked on His disciples," Steeped in Jewish traditional interpretation, they were unable to understand how their Messiah could ever suffer and die. They were following Satan's philosophy (glory without suffering) instead of God's philosophy (suffering transformed into glory). Which philosophy you accept will determine how you live and how you serve. Notice the way the media describes the Pope.... "Too heavy to bear?" It sounds compassionate doesn't it. Remarkably similar to the words of Satan. "No Jesus, not the cross, I can't let you suffer." Of course the cross is too heavy to bear - only Jesus could carry the cross and it cost him his life. To die in our place. But 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. Or doesn't want to.
Mark 8:34 indicates that, though Jesus and His disciples had met in private, the crowds were not far away. Jesus summoned the people and taught them what He taught His own disciples: there is a price to pay for true discipleship. He knew that the crowds were following Him only because of the miracles, and that most of the people were unwilling to pay the price to become true disciples.
Jesus laid down three conditions for true discipleship: (1) we must surrender ourselves completely to Him; (2) we must identify with Him in suffering and death; and (3) we must follow Him obediently, wherever He leads. 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.
Denying self is not the same as self-denial. We practice self-denial when, for a good purpose, we occasionally give up things or activities. But we deny self when we surrender ourselves to Christ and determine to obey His will. This once-for-all dedication is followed by a daily "dying to self" as we take up the cross and follow Him. 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 My sake and the Gospel's" (Mark 8:35). To lose yourself is not an act of desperation; it is an act of devotion. Discipleship is a matter of profit and loss, a question of whether we will waste our lives or invest our lives. Confession, Confusion and thirdly,
3. Confirmation (9:1-8)
It takes faith to accept and practice this lesson on discipleship, so six days later, the Lord gave a dazzling proof that God indeed does transform suffering into glory. He took Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain (it may have been Mount Hermon), and there He revealed His glory. This event was a vivid confirmation of His words as well as a demonstration of the glory of the future kingdom. The message was clear: first the suffering, then the glory. Moses represented the Law and Elijah the Prophets, both of which find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The word transfigured describes a change on the outside that comes from the inside. It is the opposite of "masquerade," which is an outward change that does not come from within. Jesus allowed His glory to radiate through His whole being.
Peter gets confused and rambles on about offering to make a temporary shelter for them. The Father interrupts Peter's speech and told them to focus their attention, not on the vision, but on the Word of God: "Hear Him!" This is because the memory of visions will fade, but the unchanging Word abides forever. The glorious vision was not an end in itself; it was God's way of confirming the Word (see 2 Peter 1:12-21). Discipleship is not built on spectacular visions but on the inspired, unchanging Word of God. 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. 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 becomes my brother. God becomes not just my creator but my heavenly Father. Who am I? I am a child of God. Because of, and only because of, Jesus. Let us pray.
Material used in this sermon from Warren Wersbie, Jim Packer and Donald English, with grateful appreciation.