Summary: We face decisions and make choices daily. Some are simple and insignificant, while others can have lasting implications. Jesus asked a fundamental question that has eternal implications. Whom do men say that I am?
Who is Jesus?
Mark 8: 27-30
As we continue to work our way through Mark’s gospel, again we come to an intimate moment with Jesus and His disciples. They have traveled from Bethsaida to Caesarea Philippi. It is here that Jesus asked a fundamental question – whom do men say that I am? Hearing the response of what men thought of Him, Jesus pressed further, making this personal for the disciples. Being challenged of the Lord, Peter offered one of the most profound statements in all of Scripture. He declared Jesus was in fact the Christ, the Son of the living God.
We all face questions and are forced to make decisions daily. Some of those are insignificant, and others can have lasting implications. However, none are more important than the question Jesus posed to the disciples – whom do you say that I am? How we respond to that question will have eternal implications. It is a question that all must answer, and one that is impossible to avoid. Those who refuse to deal with the question have in essence chosen to reject Jesus as the Christ. I want to examine the declarations within the text as we consider this eternal question: Who is Jesus?
I. A Question of Eternal Significance (27) – And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? Here Jesus poses the question that all must consider and respond. It isn’t a question that we can deny, or avoid. All must answer His question and decide who Jesus is and what they will do with Him.
To better understand this question, we need to consider the backdrop to which it was asked. Jesus wasn’t asking this question to gain knowledge for Himself. He already knew the hearts of men and what they thought of Him. (By the way, Jesus knows our hearts today! He knows whether you have truly accepted and confessed Him as Savior, or if you view Him less than your personal Savior.) It’s interesting that Jesus brings up the question of eternal significance in Caesarea Philippi. This was the region that Jesus and His disciples had gone to find rest from the multitudes who followed for material gain as well as the scoffers who denied Him. Caesarea Philippi was a region that was steeped in idolatry and pagan religion, even in Jesus’ day. It was there that Herod the Great had built a temple in honor of Caesar. His son Philip had made the temple more elaborate with a magnificence that was known world-wide. All of this was done to encourage the worship of Caesar as a god.
It is this setting that Jesus asks this fundamental question – Whom do men say that I am? Matthew records that He referred to Himself as the Son of Man as he asked this question. This is the title that Daniel referred to our Lord. Dan.7:13 – I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. It is the name that Jesus used most frequently, referring to Himself. It speaks of His humanity, His sacrifice, and His relationship to fallen man.
Jesus asked this because He knew men had a distorted perception of who He really was. He knew of their worship and devotion to Caesar and their rejection of Him. He knew that many Jews had rejected the Son of Man as the Messiah. He wanted the disciples to ponder their faith in Him as well. We must all answer this eternal question.
II. A Declaration of Spiritual Ignorance (28) – And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. The response of the disciples reveals a tragedy that is repeated throughout the ministry of Jesus. The holy Lamb of God had come to take away the sin of the world and yet many never recognized or accepted Him as the promised Messiah. They witnessed the miracles and were even astonished at His words, but they never believed on Him as the Christ. Many felt as if Jesus was simply Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets reincarnated, whom God had sent back to bring healing to Israel. They admitted that Jesus was a man of power, but they rejected the idea that He was the Christ.
The Son of God was reduced to nothing more than a mortal man in the eyes of most who knew Him. The Messiah had come, but most were spiritually blinded and rejected Him. Those of His own hometown even rejected Him. Mark 6:3 – Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.