Summary: A look at what might very well be the most important question and statement in all the Bible.
We live in an age of information. New words are added to the dictionary each year. There are memorable lines and forgotten phrases. However, today, I want us to consider a question and a statement that I feel may just very well be the most important words that we can ever consider.
The first comes from the gospel of Mark – it is chapter 8 and verse 29 and is a question that Jesus asked Peter. But rather than putting it in the context of Peter, I want you to personalize it. Here are the words recorded by Mark; Then Jesus asked, "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ.”
After being in the presence of Jesus for quite some time now, he is giving the twelve a quiz. Being with Jesus each day … seeing his compassion … witnessing miracles that could only be divine … you would think that a person would have an immediate understanding and appreciation for who Jesus was.
However, from our own human understanding we know that there are always statements and events that we are skeptical and cynical of. We know that just because we read something on the Internet that it is not necessarily true. Snopes.com and FactCheck receive millions of inquiries each year to validate the truth from the frivolous to the factual.
Human gullibility was witnessed in 1938 when Orson Welles presented a radio adaptation of the novel, The War of the Worlds, and it caused widespread panic when listeners thought that an invasion by extraterrestrial beings was actually occurring.
Some people took biblical descriptions of the earth from the Bible and presented a hypothesis that the earth is flat. As late as 1984 this statement was published in a Flat Earth Society flyer, “One thing we know for sure about this world...the known inhabited world is Flat, Level, a Plain World. ” So we understand just how difficult it is to debunk certain beliefs and long-held positions.
The skeptical and cynical were evident, early in Jesus’ personal ministry on this earth. In John 6:60-65 we read: “Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing.
And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) Then he said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.” At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”
These words of Jesus were recorded just after his “I Am the Bread of Life” discourse. We have a lot of action in John chapter 6 – Jesus fed 5,000 people and because of the popularity aspect the people wanted to make him their “bread king.” If following Jesus would ensure a daily meal ticket, many folk were quite willing to follow him. But sensing that this was their motivation the text tells us that he “withdrew again to the mountain by himself .”
His purpose was to declare “grace and truth ” but the majority of the people wanted food, not truth. I can take heart from this encounter as Jesus lost most of his crowd in just one sermon! Jesus was not impressed with the large crowds, unlike many of our large evangelistic gatherings today. Modern thought too often is “If you build it they will come” and “bigger is always better.” But Jesus understood the real motive of most of his followers - - they were there to witness the miracles or have themselves or relatives healed. They wanted to be rescued from the problems that daily living presented.
And after feeding the 5,000 the disciples got into a boat and started across the Sea of Galilee, but Jesus withdrew to the mountain to be alone for meditation and reflection. Two different paths that create a mystery for the people.
For the disciples, it was a terrifying trip. A violet and not unusual storm blew up and they were afraid. And in the dark turbulence they saw Jesus walking on the water and he calmed their fears by saying, “It is I; do not be afraid.” And the text tells us that immediately, the boat was at the other shore.
A group that had witnessed the miraculous feeding of 5,000 people wanted to see more so they crossed in boats but were puzzled to find Jesus in Capernaum. They had seen the disciples leave in a boat and they had seen Jesus go into the mountains and now they were pondering how the two were now together. And so, they asked Jesus directly, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”