Mark 8: 27-38
Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah
27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
Jesus Predicts His Death
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
The Way of the Cross
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Who Do YOU Say I Am?
I want to thank Pastor Mike and Pastor Rick for giving me this opportunity to speak while they are away at annual conference. Please keep all the pastors and delegates in your prayers in all they do to keep God’s work alive in the United Methodist Church Western Conference.
The scripture this morning is a powerful piece of scripture, chocked full of preaching options. But for our time together I want to concentrate on the opening verses.
Not long ago this very question of “Who Do YOU say Jesus is” was posed to me, just as I am posing it to you this morning.
With all that I have had to deal with since my wife, Paula’s sudden death , a little over a year ago, I have had to wrestle with my answer. In the midst of all the Whys, wherefores and reality of her leaving me, I needed to come to a definite answer so that I could give witness to my faith…..especially after someone point blank asked me…”Are you questioning your faith through all of this? What I got from that question was another question….”.Who is Jesus to you in all this?”
In the beginning of this passage we see Jesus taking his disciples on a Retreat North of the Sea of Galilee to Caesarea Philippi. This area was a place to honor a Pagan Deity and was essentially for the rich….not those that didn’t have jobs, but were only following Jesus. So why would Jesus take his disciples to this place? Maybe Jesus thought he would be left alone for a time of rest and instruction.
Jesus was at the peak of his popularity. He had fed 5000, healed those that were brought to him and cast out demons. People came to him with the thought that if they could only touch the hem of his garment, they too would be healed.
But the important thing was not why the disciples were going there or what they would do when they got there, but what happened along the way.
On the way to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples a question. “Who do people say I am?” What are all these clamoring crowds saying about me?
I know how difficult it is for us to get accurate information today with all the inaccurate news from social media, television, radio and the papers.
But even at the time of Jesus’ life on earth, they could only rely on word of mouth, passed on to them from numerous sources. So they replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
Then Jesus, with the wisdom only He could have, asked them the important question: “But what about you?” ….”Who do YOU say I am?”
This question must be an important one because it is found in all synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke.
But Who do you say I am?
Even though the 40 days of Lent and Easter Sunday is a distant memory, I thought this question would be paramount to ask ourselves this morning.
Who do you say that Jesus is in your life? What would you tell someone if they asked you about your relationship with Jesus?
When I entered college out of high school, I went to Brevard Jr. College. This year is our Golden Anniversary of graduation and we are having a reunion of sorts with our graduating class. When I got the invitation and discovered the two classmates in charge, I called one of them to inquire about the specifics.
As we began to talk and reminisce I asked him where he attended school after he left Brevard. In a very easy way he told me where he attended and who he met that first fall semester at his new school. Surprisingly the one person he first met was Jesus. He eloquently shared his faith journey and how important that Jesus had become in his life throughout these last 50 years.
To be honest, I was a little embarrassed as I listened. How would I share with others about my relationship with God through this man called Jesus?
Peter speaks up rather quickly and probably loudly…”You are the Christ.’
What a pat answer…..end of question.
But I am not here to focus on Peter’s thoughts or his response.
But instead….”Who do you believe He is?” “Who do I believe He is?”
I have preached a lot of sermons and taught a lot of lessons on Jesus and this text….But through these last few months…now I have also been faced with the same question…”Who is Jesus to Me”? How do I do that this morning without giving you a pat answer like Peter did?
One of my most favorite passages of scripture is the 14th Chapter of John’s Gospel. You know the one that begins with “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust is God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.
These words that Jesus was saying to his disciples happened on the night before his betrayal and death on the Cross. Thomas is a little confused about where Jesus is saying that he is going. So Thomas says to Jesus, “Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’
I love the answer that Jesus Gave to Thomas, His other Disciples…and to you and me. “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
This morning I purposely asked for us to recite the Nicene Creed. In this historic Affirmation of Faith, we recited what we believe God to be, that He sent his Son Jesus, being of God, to come as a human being for us and our salvation. That while on earth he was crucified, suffered death and was buried. And on the third day he arose again and ascended into heaven to be at the right hand of the Father.
But how do I/we take this information off the page and have it become personal to us so that we might share with others?
Our faith has to be deeper than the creeds we recite. It has to be more than the words we read in the scriptures.
So when Jesus responded to Thomas and said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Maybe I could or should stop there and we go home.
But I want to take a few moments and unpack this very powerful statement and make it more personal and real for us this morning.
He is the way
Even before we were called Christians, we (as followers) were called…Those that belong to the way. Acts 9:2 The people of the way.
But what does the Bible mean by the WAY?
The way could be seen as a destination out there somewhere.
But for me the way is not a destination, but a life style.
Jesus is the way——-the model of how people should live.
He shows me how to submit my will and give in to God’s will.
(Not my will be done, but Thy will be done!)
It’s the model of how I should live in relationship with God…..but also how I relate to others.
How I relate to people who are like me and those who are not like me.
How I relate to people I like and how I relate to those I don’t like!
How do I relate to all people?
Jesus had that amazing ability to relate/connect to all people. To reach beyond his own social/economic/belief system and show concern to everyone he came in contact with. Even those who were nailing him to the cross. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!”
The way—-is the way Jesus calls us to live our lives. In all relationships to God, to one another, that is grounded in Love and acceptance.
In the most recent Royal Wedding service, the minister said…” It’s all about Love…It’s not love if it’s not God”
Jesus is the way and that way leads me to the truth.
So I have to ask, what is the truth that Jesus leads me to?
My belief in Jesus leads me to the truth about who God is. If you want to know what God is like then you can look at Jesus and know the truth about God.
The apostle Paul said…God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.
Matthew—Jesus is Emmanuel—God with Us.
It’s about a God who loves the world and all that is good in the world.
I don’t know about you but as I follow in the way and encounter the truth, I learn more about myself.
This is where Jesus gets under my skin! If you think about real love as shown by Jesus and Jesus hasn’t gotten under your skin maybe you are not listening!
Jesus has a unique way of holding up a mirror so I can see me as a really am. Not all dressed up in a suit or robe preaching on Sunday….but Jesus sees me as I really am….Warts and all! And he holds that up to me so I can really see who I am!
But he not only shows me my weaknesses but he also shows the other side of me. The side that is made in the Amago Dei ! In the Image of God.
You see, each of us are precious in his sight, even with the things we don’t want others to see. God helps us through Christ to affirm the statement…”God don’t make no Junk!
So our real self is born only when we encounter God through Jesus and the truth!
And the truth then leads me to Life. The life here and now. Not life out there somewhere. But it’s God’s gift to us in the here and now.
The life that starts with the life here and now and how we live it.
A part of that life that Jesus reveals to me along the way…..is that life is to be lived together in relationship with one another.
We cannot walk in the way apart from relationships with one another…..just like we cannot walk in a growing relationship with God without the Body of Christ..His Church.
Sometimes I think I have heard Jesus revealing himself to me through people just like you. In a card that I received, a phone call from someone , a hand on my back by someone that I know or didn’t know, just because they had heard about my situation. Or simply through the voice of a friend.
So Who do you say Jesus is? It’s all good to give patented answers but what is inside you through a past situation where you truly encountered Christ that you can Say Who Jesus is to you?
I promise you the world is waiting for your answer that comes from your heart.
Sometimes in the early morning I pray this simple prayer:
“Lord let me see your face today in the people I meet…or better yet, let me be your face to someone else this day.
So maybe sometime today through the voice of a family member or friend… or a has been preacher, you might be able to answer the question….
“Who do you say that Jesus is? So that others too might know through your answer.
May it be so!