Summary: Jesus asks His disciples, "Who do you say I am?".
I am beginning this morning by reading our scripture as I want to you have the full passage on your mind as we continue our lesson. I encourage you to open your Bible to Mark, chapter 8, verses 27-38 and follow along as I read.
27 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 answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." 29 He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. 31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." 34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Who do you say that I am? That is the question Jesus has proposed to His disciples. As is always the case, Jesus has a reason for asking this particular question. Just prior to this passage, Mark discusses a couple of Jesus’ miracles, including feeding another huge crowd with seven loaves of bread only and healing a blind man, yet, the disciples still had doubts and questions about the divinity of Jesus. He even gets a bit frustrated with them, saying, from verses 17-21: "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" They said to him, "Twelve." 20 "And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" And they said to him, "Seven." 21 Then he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?"
I think it is safe to say, this is troubling to Jesus; His disciples still don’t seem to understand who He is. And now, on their way to a local village, He asks the question, “Who do you say that I am?”.
Jesus proceeds to teach the disciples about the plan for His life, and death. This is upsetting to them, in particular Peter, who attempts to tell Jesus they don’t believe him and to stop making stuff up.
Jesus lashes out at Peter, calling him Satan and rebuking Peter for having a closed mind that can only focus on human things but not divine things.
This is an important moment in the book of Mark for a couple of reasons. The first is that Peter passed this information to Mark, his close associate and writer of this book, giving the passage greater importance. Secondly, it shows how even those closest to Jesus failed to see the importance of His ministry and understand the lessons he was trying to teach.
In verse 34, Jesus calls the crowd closer to Him and begins to teach them how only those to give up their life for Jesus and His Gospel will actually save it and that those who want to follow Jesus must deny themselves first.
So what does all this mean, why is Jesus telling His disciples about His death, rebuking Peter for a closed, human focused mind, and teaching the crowd of people they must deny their own lives before they can be a follower of Jesus?
I believe it comes down to three things. One, we must ask ourselves that same question Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?”. Two, we must look in the mirror and explore in our minds if we are closed off to the divine. And lastly, what does it mean to give up our life and can we really do that?