Summary: Being a Christain means confessing that Jesus is the Messiah, but our views of what a Messiah should be doesn’t always fit Jesus.
As I as watching a Lakers game this last week, I saw Kobe Bryant put on an amazing shooting performance. Kobe set an NBA record by making 12 three point shots during the game, nine of the shots he made in a row. It was truly amazing to watch. I was excited, the fans at Staples Center were excited, Kobe’s teammates were excited. But I don’t think anyone was more excited than McDonalds. You see, Kobe is a celebrity spokesperson for McDonalds, so when Kobe does something amazing, it’s more publicity for McDonalds. In fact, I bet Sprite, Spalding, and Top Deck were all excited too, because Kobe Bryant is also a celebrity spokesperson for them as well.
Celebrity endorsements have become a regular part of sports and advertising. Whether it’s NFL quarterback Kurt Warner and his mom selling Campbell’s soup or Tiger Woods selling Nike shoes, every major corporation wants a celebrity spokesperson. In fact, some athletes make more money in their endorsements than they could ever hope to make competing in their sport.
Well I think many groups would love to have Jesus as their celebrity spokesperson. After all Jesus has a good image in the minds of many people. Most people in America view Jesus as honest and trustworthy. So if a movement or a group can make it appear that their ideas were endorsed by Jesus, that helps sell their ideas to the public. In fact, some people have done just that. Almost every single cultic religious group born in America, no matter how bizarre their beliefs, appeals to Jesus to endorse their beliefs. We saw this with Jim Jones and the People’s Temple in the 1970s. We also saw it with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in the 1990s.
A few years ago the animal rights group PETA (People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals) launched a nationwide campaign to promote a vegetarian diet. Part of their campaign was a series of billboards and ads that showed an artistic rendition of Jesus, and underneath it claimed that Jesus was a vegetarian. If Jesus was a vegetarian, we should be too. Of course I went to PETA’s web site to find out what lost historical data they’d discovered to support their claim that Jesus was a vegetarian. And of course there was none. Never mind the fact that Jesus celebrated the Jewish Passover with his disciples, which involved the eating of a lamb. Nevermind that he fed people fish and bread. I guess they missed those parts of the Bible. The folks at PETA simply thought it would persuade more people to become vegetarians if they claimed that Jesus was a vegetarian.
PETA might be brazen in their attempt to highjack Jesus for their own agenda, but they’re certainly not the only group to do it. All I can say about groups that do this is that Jesus isn’t who you think he is.
Today we’re going to see that Jesus’ first followers were also confused about who he was. They had the same tendency to try to push their own agenda on Jesus. I suppose we all struggle with the same thing. We’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of Mark called Following Jesus in the Real World. Today we come to the heart of the book of Mark, the center point of Mark’s story. The event we look at today is a hinge in the story. And we’re going to see that virtually everyone was wrong about who Jesus was.
1. Our Confession (Mark 8:27-30)
Look at vv. 27-30. Peter’s confession here of Jesus as the Christ stands as the climax of the first 8 chapters of the book of Mark.The question of who Jesus is has dominated the book of Mark from the very first chapter. In the first verse, Mark told us that he was writing an account of the origin of the message of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God (1:1). As the storyteller, Mark knows exactly who Jesus is, but the people he describes meeting Jesus seem totally in the dark about who Jesus is until now. In the second chapter, the religious leaders were offended when Jesus forgave a man’s sins; they said, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" In the fourth chapter, when Jesus stills a storm, his disciples ask, "Who is this that even the winds and the waves obey him?" (4:41). In his home town of Nazareth in chapter 6 the people ask, "Where did Jesus get this ability?" (6:2).
Everyone’s trying to figure out who Jesus is.
And the irony is that while none of the people understand who Jesus is before Peter’s confession here, the demons have known throughout the story perfectly well who Jesus is. In chapter 1 a demon cries out, "I know who you are, the Holy One of God" (1:24). In chapter 3 we learned that whenever Jesus came in contact with demons they cried out, "You are God’s Son" (3:11). In chapter 5, the man with a legion of demons calls Jesus "the Son of the Most High God" (5:7). Each time a demon announces who Jesus is, Jesus silences the demon from any further announcement. I’ll explain why I think Jesus silenced the demons in a minute.