One of the biggest questions asked around the world is who is Jesus? Dan Brown a few years ago wrote a book we all have probably heard of. It was entitled The Davinci Code. In this book he challenges what people have believed about Jesus for two millenniums. Over 60 million copies were sold. Outside the church it caused quite a stir.
There are other things happening that have caused people to ask this question. If you study missions or were a missiologist you would be aware that for that last ten or twelve years in the Muslim world there have been many cases of Muslims that have encountered Jesus Christ in dreams that are so vivid and real that they have reached out to Christian missionaries to confirm them. Many times they will say that they are seeing a vision that is much different than the Jesus of the Koran. Men and women have experienced amazing transformation as they have turned to become Christfollowers sometimes even at the risk of death. Many of these accounts come from “closed countries” where the preaching and teaching of Christianity is forbidden.
It is always interesting to read the book of Mark in the New Testament. Remember that the book of Mark was written to a Roman not a Jewish audience he writes with a style that makes it simple for those outside the Jewish faith to understand.
Right in the middle of Mark chapter eight (half way through the book) Jesus ask a series of questions of his disciples.
27 Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, "Who do people say that I am?" 28 They told Him, saying, "John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets." Mark 8:27-28
Jesus was in essence asking them about the buzz that was out there in and about Jerusalem and the surrounding area. What was being said in the coffee shops and marketplaces or at the community well? The disciples gave their best answers. (John the Baptist, Elijah and a prophet)
Anytime you are studying the bible you must look at context. If it is a sentence you look at the paragraph it is in. If it is a paragraph you look at the chapter it is in and if it is a chapter you look at the book it is in. This incident in Jesus life was recorded in Mark 8 so let’s see what was happening there.
• The Context of the Question
About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, 2 “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”
4 His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?”
5 Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?” “Seven loaves,” they replied.
6 So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd. 7 A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them.
8 They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. 9 There were about 4,000 people in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten. 10 Immediately after this, he got into a boat with his disciples and crossed over to the region of Dalmanutha.” Mark 8:1-10 NLT
Pay attention to the words “another large crowd.” A few week ago Tevis taught on the miracle when Jesus fed 5000 people with two loaves of bread and three fish. That miracle was done in a Jewish context where all the Jews were gathered to hear Jesus speak. When it was done there were 12 baskets of leftovers. Some have speculated that this represented God’s way of saying that Jesus was the bread of heaven come down to earth to spiritually nourish the Jewish nation. When God fed the Israelites of the Old Testament with manna that came down from heaven it was a type of the coming “Bread of Life.” (Jesus)
Now here is Jesus in another scenario teaching to a large crowd made up of both Jews and Gentiles. They have been listening for three days without food. When He feeds them this time there are 7 baskets leftover. 7 is the number of perfection or wholeness in the Bible and once again in typical biblical fashion a message is sent that Christ is the Bread of Life for the whole world.
11 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.
What is happening here is the Pharisees are seeing miracles happen that causes them to know that Jesus has power that is beyond anything on this earth. They basically believed he was possessed or using evil power. They did not believe He was the Messiah. They were testing Jesus but it was not so that they would make an A but so that Jesus would make an F. They were not responsive to Him or His message.
12 When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.” 13 So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake. Mark 8:11-13 NLT
He is now going to go in a boat with His disciples and low and behold they had forgotten to bring any food except one loaf of bread.
14 But the disciples had forgotten to bring any food. They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. 15 As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”
When Jesus speaks of the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod He is warning them of two very important issues that all Christfollowers need to watch out for. There is something in the way they look at life that causes them to not be able to be followers or believers in Christ.
Pharisees: it is the yeast of hypocrisy
Herod: it was the yeast of worldliness.
Hypocrisy is pretending to be more than we really are and that will always diminish our view of Jesus.
Worldliness will always put barriers before our eyes so that we can’t see who He is.
16 At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread.
17 Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? 18 ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’[a] Don’t you remember anything at all? 19 When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”
“Twelve,” they said. 20 “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?” “Seven,” they said. 21 “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.
In essence in these verses He is asking them, “Do you not see or understand who I am?”
“Don’t you know or understand?” “Are you hearts too hard to take it in?”
Hardened hearts will always keep us from seeing or knowing who Jesus is!
22 When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?”
24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.” 25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.” Mark 8:24-26 NLT
What the author Mark is showing us in these stories is the world’s greatest teacher trying hard to open the minds and hearts of the disciples to see who He really was. He heals this man but does it in two steps to illustrate the point to the disciples that they are seeing him with diminished vision but that they can encounter Him in such a way that they will see Him clearly.
He then proceeds to ask them our question of the day: “Who do men say that I am?” He then follows it up with, “Who do you say that I am?” We are going to look at that question next week more in-depth.
• The Timing of the Question
Let’s look briefly at the placement of the questions in the book of Mark. This encounter with Jesus is right in the middle of the book and this book answers the two most important questions you need to ask if you are going to follow someone.
1. Who are you? Chapters 1-8: I am the Messiah and the Son of God.
2. Where are you going? Chapters 9-16: I am going to the cross. I am going to suffer and die and pay for the sins of men from all time. I will be raised from the dead by the power of God and give forgiveness to whosoever will come to me.
• The Location of the Question
We are told exactly where this questioning takes place. It was in Caesarea Philippi which was a place filled with the worship of all kinds of God’s. There was occult practice that took place in caves and caverns all over this area. It is as if Jesus is asking this question while standing in the midst of all the options of that day. It would be like Jesus going to Sedona Arizona or Boulder where there are a lot of very different beliefs and New Age thinking is taught. He is saying to them, Who do you say that I am in light of all these options.
A genuine relationship begins with an accurate view of the other person. (dating, marrying, going into business with someone) Jesus was going to change the world with these twelve followers or disciples and it was critical that they really came to know who He was. It is no different today. You and I must get to know Jesus Christ intimately to be authentic in our Christian walk.
There were and are now many multiple views of who Jesus is. It is important that you and I come to believe with absolute conviction based on what He said, what He’s done and the evidence in others lives over the last two thousand years.
Do you know that I think it might be easier to believe today then it must have been for these early disciples to get their heads wrapped around this man born into the home of a carpenter who claimed to be the Son of God.
Who Did Men Say He Was?
1. John the Baptist taught He was “One who is mightier than I,” but later sent his disciples to evaluate Jesus’ true identity. Mark 1:8, Matthew 11:12
2. His family thought he was delusional, insane, out of touch with reality. Mark 3:21
3. The religious leaders thought Jesus was demon possessed. Mark 3:22
4. The political leadership (Herod) conjectured Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead. Mark 6:14
5. The general population was divided in their opinion; some thinking Jesus to be Elijah or a prophet like those in Old Testament times. Mark 6:15
6. The crowds that followed him perceived him to be a great teacher (Mark 1:22) and a worker of miracles. Mark 2:12
Who Do Men Say He Is Today?
1. “Muhammad described Jesus as a virgin born, miracle working Messiah, who would return in the last days to establish peace throughout the world.” But he also taught not to call the Messiah more than a man and that he could not die for sin.
The Message of the Prophets: Mohammad and the Messiah p.1317
2. Christian Science teaches Jesus was a human and “Christ” a divine idea. SH. 473:1516
3. Jehovah Witness teaches Jesus is Michael the Arch Angel, God’s first great creation and the brother of Satan. The Truth Shall Make You Free p.49
4. Mormons teach Jesus is one God in a pantheon of Gods. “As man is God once was; as God is man may become.” The Articles of Faith p.430
5. Spirituals teach Jesus is an advanced medium. Spiritual Telegraph No. 37
6. Dan Brown teaches that Jesus was married to the goddess Mary Magdalene and had offspring from her. He teaches the New Testament documents are a cover-up and conspiracy to hide this information. The DaVinci Code
7. The Jesus Seminar – a group of liberal “scholars” say the Jesus of the New Testament is a myth developed by the disciples after the fact to perpetuate their movement. Time, April 8, 1996
Uncovering the Secrets of Jesus’ True Identity
I want us to try to understand for just a few minutes how we can uncover who Jesus is for real. In this series we are going to also use Revelation chapter one as a resource for our understanding.
1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bondservants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bondservant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.
The word revelation in this context is translated from the word apocalypse.
When we hear that word we automatically jump to thinking about the end of the world, Armageddon, 666 and all kinds of evil things. When you do that you are thinking somewhat erroneously. The word apocalypse means: An unveiling. To show or to expose or bring something into view. (Like pulling the sheet of a painting)
The revelation is unveiling the reality of who Jesus is. There are some things we don’t yet know about Him and John in the book of Revelation attempts to show who He will be when He returns to this earth someday.
If you want to know His real identity and you want to know see Him for who He is. If you want to see the Jesus of the Bible, not only who was in eternity past, not only who was born to a Virgin, not only who lived a perfect life, not only who died on a cross and then rose from a grave, but you want to know the Jesus who will return someday as King of kings and Lord of lords and who will judge all the earth and be in charge of it then that is what the revelation or apocalypse or unveiling of the coming Christ is.
When John wrote these words it was about 95 A.D. and things had really gone from bad to worse for Christfollowers. It was a time of Emperor worship which Christians would not do so they were many times wrapped in bloody animal skins and taken to the Roman coliseum where in front of crowds of people they would be attacked and torn from limb to limb by wild hungry animal. It was the sport of the day. They were considered atheists because they would not worship the Emperors. Often they would come into the arena singing and praising God that they were considered worthy to die for the cause and gospel of Jesus Christ. Do you think they believed in who Jesus is?
Some of the Emperors took this persecution of Christians to unbelievable depths. One emperor took Christians and bound them, covered them in tar, put them on poles and lit them on fire using them as torches to light up the night for his parties.
God gives this Revelation to John so that those who are Chrsitfollowers have hope in the midst of a world gone really wrong.
Revelation gives emphasis to many events and people often get hung up on the events and miss the point of the book which is to reveal the authority and sovereignty of Jesus Christ who will return one day to rule and make right the wrongs on this earth. His identity and authority are the main themes of the book of revelation not all the events.
There is a day coming in spite of terrorism, the economy, the bad news that we all have to deal with from time to time in our own lives when the apocalypse of Jesus will appear and He will not come back this time as Savior meek and mild but as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to conquer and subdue the earth. The first will be last. He will be on a white horse and on its side will be the words faithful and true.
The idea behind our spending the next three weeks thinking and teaching about these questions Jesus asked is so that you and I will find the answer to who do we say that Jesus is.
We are going to close today with the testimony of Brian “head” Welch who was in the band Korn. Not a band you really want your kids listening to. It was all drugs, sex and rock and roll until he encountered the Jesus I have been talking to you about today.
Let’s watch this video.
I would encourage you to watch more about Brian’s testimony and life change by watching an interview on Youtube with CNN.
And now I challenge you this week to begin to process the question for next Sunday which is “Who do you say that Jesus is?”
Who is He to you?
Benediction: “May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy and peace.” 2 Tim. 1:2