Summary: This message indicates that we can truly know Jesus only by our personal relationship with Him.
Test: “Who do men say that I am?” (Mark 8:27).
If someone were to ask you, “Who is this One called Jesus?” What would you say? How would you describe Jesus? What would you say that would convince one that you truly know Him?
There are times when we are questioned about something and we do not really know the answer, but we go right ahead and say whatever comes to our mind. We may say something that is true or we might just make up something that sounds good.
As Christians, followers of Jesus, we should be able to tell who Jesus is, what He means to us, why He came, and what He has done for us. Also, just by observation, people should know we are different because of our actions, our words, our way of life, and the radiant reflection of love that shines from our face.
The disciples were fortunate to have been with Jesus during His ministry. They heard Him teach and they were privileged to see Him minister to multitudes of people. The heard Him as He taught from Old Testament Scripture.
At this point in time, according to our Scripture reading, Jesus and the disciples were traveling to the town and villages of Caesarea Philippi. While they were traveling along the road, Jesus posed a question to the disciples: “Who do men say that I am?” (v.27)
Jesus asked this question about six months before the Crucifixion occurred. He knew His mission. He knew what lay down the road. He knew about the pain and agony He would encounter. He knew about the torture of the Cross. He was at the point in His ministry where it was time to teach and prepare the disciples about his impending death.
Did men really know who Jesus was? What were their thoughts concerning His identity? He already knew men’s thoughts because He knew their heart, but this was a good lead-in question to the question He would ask His disciples.
Were men saying that He was just the son of Mary and Joseph who happened to be born in a stable in Bethlehem? Did they just label Him as the son of a carpenter? Did men consider Him to be just another man like all other men? Did they believe He was different? They had seen Him and heard of His works, but did they really know Him?
The disciples answered Jesus’ question: “Who do men say that I am?” with these words: “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets” (v.28). These are not bad responses in that people at least placed Jesus in a category higher than the average man.
John the Baptist was a unique individual and respected by the people who went out into the wilderness to listen to his unusual message. “John’s clothes were made of camel hair and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4). He was different, but he had something to offer the people. Perhaps some who went to hear him went out of curiosity, but nevertheless they went.
John was not preaching to win the praise of the people for himself, but he was concerned about the people and wanted them to praise God. He not only preached God’s Word, but John practiced what he preached. In addition to this, he was the first true prophet for some 400 years. He preached a powerful message of truth similar to Elijah. Unlike Jesus, John had no special powers.
When the people compared Jesus to being John the Baptist or Elijah, they were saying that His ways and His message followed a similar path. In other words, they were elevating Jesus to a level higher than the ordinary man. In essence their thinking and their remarks about who Jesus was were acceptable for the time being.
People thought highly of Jesus although they came short of really knowing Him. They could see that Jesus was different just as they knew John was different. There were no negative comments made about Jesus.
John’s message was one of repentance. John said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2). Jesus started His ministry with the same message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). The messages were the same. John set the stage for Jesus to carry out His mission of salvation for mankind.
After Jesus heard who others thought He was, He asked His disciples this question: “But who do you say that I am?” (v.29). It is nice to ask other people what they think, but it is also important for us to really know what we think and where we stand on a particular issue.
The disciples were hand-picked by Jesus to be players on His team. These disciples were ordinary men doing worldly work. Simon Peter, James and John (sons of Zebedee), Andrew, and Philip were all fishermen. Matthew was a tax collector. Bartholomew, Thomas (the twin), James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus (Judas son of James), Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot all had unrecorded occupations.