Sunday, July 1, 2018

Mark, Week 27 - Who Do You Say I am

Questions are some of the most common ways we learn, right? That’s why teacher’s say, there’s never a stupid question. I like to add to that, just stupid people that don’t ask their questions. But we use questions all the time to get information from people. We ask kids, what do you want to be when you grow up? Men tend to ask the person they want to marry, would you marry me? When we don’t know what to say in a conversation, we ask, how about this weather?
Questions are a great way to not only get general information, but to discover new insights about people. Why do people feel the way they do? What makes a person tick? How did they come to that conclusion? Who has influenced their life? Where are they going? And I would say that asking a question of someone is just as important as someone simply giving a monologue about who they are. In a monologue, there’s a lot of questions answered, but there’s no back and forth, no, dialogue, no spontaneity. But with people asking question of each other, two people can have the opportunity to discover new things, not just about someone else, but about themselves as well.

And that’s where we come to the Gospel of Mark today, to a place of questions. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in the Gospel of Mark chapter 8, starting in verse 27.

And as we jump into Mark 8:27, let’s take a review of what we’ve talked about so far. And in this review, we have to tackle the entire seven and a half chapters that we’ve gone through since the beginning of this Mark series.
In the first six chapters, we saw two phases of Jesus’ ministry. The first phase was Jesus revealing his authority. This authority was shown in three ways: through Jesus’ command over the Word of God, his command over the physical realm by stopping storms and  healing people, and finally his command over the spiritual realm when he would cast out demons and forgive sins. This entire first phase shows us that Jesus is God come down to earth.
In Jesus’ second phase of ministry, we see him begin to focus on the preparation of his disciples for the ministry. We see Jesus become more intentional about making sure his disciples know deeper things about his teachings. He gets them to start actively participating in his work, and when they start to anticipate his actions, he sends them off on their first short term ministry journey. 
Then, we move into a third phase, which begins with the story of Herod. In this third phase, we see three groups of people who miss the point of Jesus. This is what we talked about last week. Herod missed the point of Jesus because he was focused on his sin. The Pharisees missed Jesus because they were focused on convoluting the commands of God. And the disciples were missing Jesus, because they got a taste of what he offered, but were stuck in that same spot. 
And through all of this, Mark has been preparing us for what happens in the passage today. So let’s get into Mark chapter 8 starting in verse 27.

8:27 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.

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.”

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 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.”
9:1 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

Jesus poses two questions to the disciples, “Who do people say I am,” and “…what about you?”
From the questions Jesus proposes, there are three ramifications that we see in the following verses.

The first question is actually where we started back into Mark at the beginning of this summer. In fact, the answer that the disciples give to Jesus, parallels the responses we heard back in chapter 6 with Herod. When Jesus sent out the disciples earlier, people were saying that  Jesus was either John back from the dead, Elijah returned from heaven, or a new prophet from God. And for the last few weeks since their return, these same identities for Jesus had continued.
That’s when Jesus moved from the general public, to specifically who the disciples thought he was. I find this really interesting that it takes Jesus over two years for him to ask the disciples this question. That means that in all this time, Jesus had let the disciples watch, and listen and come to their own conclusion about who Jesus is. Jesus never told them point blank who he was, but rather allowed them to discover that truth on their own.
This is the first ramification from this question. And a huge point with how people come to know Jesus as their Savior. People have to come to an understanding of who Jesus is on their own. On their own in the sense that we never convince anyone that Jesus is the Savior. We present the evidence and they have to make a decision based on that evidence. Even Jesus didn’t make any of his disciples believe, instead he had them watch and listen, and come to the conclusion that he was the Savior, on their own.

But it doesn’t stop there. When Peter makes this proclamation that Jesus is the Savior, Jesus moves on to start telling the disciples that he will have to suffer and die. Now, up to this point, Jesus hasn’t explicitly stated that he was going to suffer and die. He has given allusion to it, like he did in the parable of the Bridegroom back in chapter 2. But this is the first time that he has outright stated that he will have to suffer and die.
But Peter doesn’t like that Jesus is saying he will die. Now there might be a lot of reasons why Peter is so upset. It could be that Peter does care for Jesus and doesn’t want to see him die. It could be that Peter doesn’t want to see the last few years of his life wasted. But I think it’s actually for another reason. And that reason comes from Jesus’ follow up.
Jesus responds to Peter by saying,“You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

But Jesus isn’t just responding to Peter’s rebuke, he’s responding to all of the disciples. It says, “But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter.”

Peter was the spokesman for the group, but the whole group had the same mind set. And this is the second ramification of Jesus’ question: God’s purpose for an event, might be different than our understanding.
It’s really easy for us to come to an understanding about God, but is it the full understanding of what God intended? The disciple’s understanding of Jesus as Savior, was very different than Jesus’. The disciples viewed Jesus as a conquering king, that would overthrow the Roman government, and restore Israel to a great and powerful nation. But they had missed something. They had missed God’s plan, which was first the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. They had an idea in their head of what God meant, but that’s not what he intended.
So, when Jesus started giving them God’s plan, they rebuffed him. They denied the actual work of God, for their idea. But we must conform to God’s plan, and not try to change it to our own.

Now we come to the final ramification from Jesus’ question. Jesus calls the crowd and his disciples together and begins to let them know what it really means for someone to believe that Jesus is Savior. Jesus tells them that if a person wants to follow him, they must deny their life. They must lose their life to Jesus. They must give up everything to follow him. Nothing is off the table when it comes to what Jesus requires of us. And we must realize it, if we want to call him Savior.
Our friends, family, relationships, money, time, future, assets; all of it is given up to Jesus. And all of it must be lost to gain our lives. This is the final ramification from Jesus’ question: Everything we have is Jesus’, when we say he is Savior. It’s a tall order, and a huge command from Jesus. To call him Savior, means he gets everything. 
But this is what it comes down to, we tend to think that our insights into God are complete. But the reality is there’s alway something we can learn. From Jesus’ one question, who do you say I am? The disciples learned that they had to come to the understanding that Jesus is Savior on their own. That their understanding of Jesus as Savior wasn’t his, and that everything they had was to be given up for Jesus.

We must realize the same things. That there’s more to God than what we know. That he is more complex, and desires more from us. But at the same time, God brings us along having us watch and learn from him, just like Jesus dealt with his disciples. 

This is why God’s word is so important for us. We have an unprecedented privilege of having God’s Word for personal use. We are in a position that almost no other period in history had. And it’s within his word that we can discover new and deeper things about him. Things that should challenge us to move beyond where we are. To think beyond our own thoughts, and to give up more of ourselves, so that we can gain more of God.

This week, as we’re coming to the end of the first half of Mark and to another breathing point within the text, I challenge you to take six common passages that you might have read several, if not hundreds of times. These are: Genesis 1-2, Exodus 3, 1 Samuel 17, John 15, Hebrews 11, and Revelation 22. Take these six passages, one every day for the next week, and ask God to do three things in your life.
First, to bring you into a new understanding of him.
Second, to change an old understanding and make it richer.
Third, to help you give up more of yourself, for more of him.

Because this is what it means to call Jesus Savior, it means to move beyond ourselves and into deeper relationship with him. 

I pray that God will discloses new and wonderful things to you, as you encounter the ramifications of what it means to respond to Jesus’ question, by calling him Savior. Amen.

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