Who Do People Say That That I Am? Mark 8.22-38

Sermon Roni

PETER’S PARTIAL SIGHT

The healing of a blind man (Mk. 8.22-26) is followed by Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah (Mk. 8:27-30), but Peter’s rebuke of Jesus in Mk. 8:32 indicates that he is “seeing” only partially.

Par-blind; short sighted; myopic; or partial sight afflict many of us physically, however, when applied to spiritual sight/insight this form of myopia leads to many different spiritual problems. This is abundantly apparent from Peter’s failure to understand that Jesus must suffer and face death.

Who is this Jesus?

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(Mk. 8:27-30) – Peter gives the correct answer to the question as to who do folk say that Jesus is.

What happens next indicates that Peter did not understand who Jesus is! (Mk. 8:31-33), consequently this led to a wrong understanding as to what Jesus came to do!

The result is that we who want to follow him often do not know what we are meant to do! 

Peter cannot think of a Messiah who suffers and dies. According to Jewish understanding Messiah was to come as a conquer and in their context that meant throwing off the Roman yoke. Because of Peter’s limited spiritual insight he was like the blind man whose sight was at first only partially restored and was about the same as seeing trees walking — it just doesn’t make any sense to him that Jesus must suffer and die.

A suffering Messiah was not something that Peter understood.

THE SETTING

The questioning about Jesus identity took place in the villages of Caesarea Philippi. This was a place that was known in antiquity as a shrine of the Greek and Roman nature god, Pan and was called Panion. However, Philip, Herod’s son renamed it Philippi in honour of the Emperor and himself. It had also been a place of worship dedicated to various Semitic deities such as Baal-gad or Baal-hermon (Josh 11:17 ff; Judg. 3:3; 1 Chr. 5:23).”

The questions about Jesus’ identity began at Caesarea Philippai.The question as to who folk thought Jesus is was asked in a place dedicated to a pagan god, with a name honouring the human Caesar (who was often presented as divine). This was at the spring and one of the headwaters of the river Jordan and Dan was also a place of a sacred shrine at the base of Mount Hermon. It was known severly as Panion/Panias or Banias.

Where does our real confession take place?

Certainly our confessions and statements about our faith that we say in our liturgy are sincere, but it goes to a deeper level when we proclaim our faith in Jesus against all the other things that compete for our allegiance. It is easy to say “I believe,” when involved in worship with other believers around us and who are all saying the same words of confession.

However, many of us may feel like the blind man, “Help my unbelief” when we are out and about busy with our daily lives, surrounded by other beliefs.

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WHO IS JESUS?

“Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. (In Mark we meet the Messianic Secret in which Jesus discouraged folk to openly declare who he is and what he came to do).

Some were saying he is “John the baptizer [that] has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised” (6:14b-16).

Common ideas of who the Messiah is during the period of Second Temple Judaism is that he will be an eschatological king. Through the Messiah God would reestablish the Kingdom of David over all the earth. The Messiah would be the perfect king chosen by God, through whom he would first deliver Israel from its enemies and then cause Israel to live in peace and harmony.

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Though one may have witnessed Jesus’ miracles and have heard his teaching and still come to the wrong conclusion about who he is and the source of his power.

In verse 31, Jesus begins to teach them with a strong emphasis on his suffering and death. Jesus’ teaching also functions as a renewed call to his disciples to follow him:

There are four parts to what Jesus must do:

  1. Suffer many things
  2. Be rejected (after testing) by the religious leaders
  3. Be killed
  4. After three days rise
  5. This verb is used most often of Jesus commanding evil forces:

This verb is used most often of Jesus commanding evil forces:

  1. evil spirits (1:25, 3:12; 9:25)
  2. and the wind (4:39).
  3. Jesus “orders” his disciples not to tell
  4. anyone about him (8:30)
  5. and he “rebukes” Peter (8:33).

(The phrase, “seeing his disciples — note the plural – “he rebuked” is found only in Mark. Neither Matthew nor Luke have Jesus “rebuking” Peter — and by extension the other disciples? Only Jesus gets the business of “rebukes,” correct, everyone else seems to get it wrong. Peter rebukes Jesus (8:32). The disciples rebuke those who were bringing little children to Jesus (10:13). The crowd rebukes the noisy blind man (10:48). This verb seems to carry an idea of exerting power over others — something Jesus can do with evil forces and what he tries to do with his disciples. It is not something anyone else should do with Jesus or with the beggars or children).

Why does Jesus say to Peter that he has become Satan?

Peter has not “set his mind” (phroneo) on the things of God, but on human things. This verb has an emphasis on the underlying disposition or attitude.

Jesus’ harsh critique of Peter involves more than just the few words spoken on this occasion. Even after the clear words from Jesus, Peter still hasn’t got the proper picture. He needs an “attitude change”. He is seeing with “human eyes” rather than through the will and eyes of God. He wrongly tells Jesus what is and what is not going to happen. Peter wants to be a leader, not a follower. Are we ever guilty of having wrong attitudes about Jesus and God’s purposes?

That is promised by the word at the empty tomb, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you”      We should not be to harsh with Peter. Jesus loved Peter, though he got things wrong. He was willing to speak out and step out even if he said the wrong thing or got himself into difficulties.

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WHAT ARE WE TO DO?

These words are addressed to a crowd along with the disciples. “It is not only Jesus’ destiny that they must begin to see in a new light, but their own” (R. T. France The Gospel of Mark, p. 333):

“If anyone wishes/wants (thelo) [follow Jesus]. . .” (vv. 34, 35) indicates that it is a matter of the will — perhaps related to the “inner disposition or attitude” indicated in v. 33 by phreneo.

 There are three parts to wishing to follow behind Jesus:

  1. deny oneself
  2. take up one’s cross
  3. follow Jesus

These are followed by five other sayings:

  1. Saving one’s life (8:35)
  2. What’s the benefit (8:36)
  3. Life’s Price (8:37)
  4. If we are ashamed of the Son of Man he will be ashamed of us (8:38)
  5. Some standing here will not see death (9:1)

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