There were plots underway back in Galilee to put Jesus to death.
That's one reason he was in Gentile territory. Also, Jesus had some
very important things to teach his disciples before they departed
for Jerusalem.


Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the town of Caesarea
Philippi, and on the road He asked His disciples, "Who do
men say that I am?" So they answered, "John the Baptist; but
some say Elijah; and others, one of the prophets."

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered
and said to Him, "You are the Christ." [{Matthew 16:16-17} "You
are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and
said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, flesh and blood
has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven."]

Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one
about Him.
                                                    Mark 8:27-30 NKJV, condensed

Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many
things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes,
and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word
openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But
when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked
Peter, saying, "Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of
the things of God, but the things of men."

When Jesus had called the people to Himself, with His disciples 
also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him
deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. . . . "

                                                                            Mark 8:31-34


                               Jesus, Who are You?

The disciples were polite. They only mentioned the complimentary
names given to Jesus. The list contained no surprises; John the Baptist,
Elijah, one of the prophets. King Herod believed that Jesus was John
the Baptist come back from the dead to haunt him; a guilty conscience
will nag at a person like that. Other people came to the same conclusion
about Jesus, but for different reasons.

Old Testament literature claimed Elijah will be the forerunner to the
promised Messiah. Families of the devout left an empty place for him at
their Passover table, in hopes it was Elijah's time to come. Those who
didn't have such high hopes and expectations, yet knew Jesus was very
special, thought he must be a prophet like those heroes whose stories
were told in their ancient Scriptures.

Jesus had this conversation on the road with his disciples in the region
of Caesarea Philippi, a city which rings with the authority of the Roman
Caesar and the Tetrarch Philip. Home to a variety of cultures, gods, and
temples, it was more than a day's walking distance from Jewish Galilee.
Perhaps an odd place for a Galilean itinerant preacher to be wondering
what people thought of him.

Mark's placement of this discussion back to back with the miracle in
the preceding passage is very interesting because they have a similar
pattern. In that 2-part miracle, the first attempt to restore the blind
man's vision was blurry and incomplete. In like manner, the first set of
answers to the question of Jesus' identity, is also inadequate and
blurred. People did not know who he was.

So Jesus changed the question slightly, making it much more personal,
direct, and possibly more difficult to answer. "Who do you say that
I am?" But big, strapping Peter plunged right in. He knew the answer
and blurted it right out with confidence. "You are the Christ." Bingo!
He made it sound like he understood and could see it all so clearly.
Peter's proclamation is such an important one. A first, actually. The
beginning notes of the everlasting symphony played out in every
century since, by the body of Jesus the Christ, called the Church.

The Hebrew word, Messiah, is translated from the Greek as the Christ,
or the Anointed One. It is a title, not a proper name. We can rightly
suppose Peter was saying he believed Jesus to be the promised
Messiah. Which sounds so simple and to the point. But it isn't. Just
like the word Church carries much baggage with it and different people
have a variety of opinions, both good and bad, about it's value and
function in the world, so it was with the word Messiah. Peter believed
Jesus to be the Messiah, but what kind of Messiah? What did he
mean by that word?

Messiah was a religious title - one who would intervene in human
affairs on God's behalf to save the righteous and destroy sinners.
The Messiah also held a political aspect - one who would revive the
throne of king David and save the Jewish people from the oppression
of powerful nations. The image of a Messiah carried with it the promise
of peace and security, health and long life, fruitfulness and prosperity,
joy and celebration, justice, righteousness, mercy, never having to be
afraid, and an end to tears and suffering. It was a prophetic vision so
blessed and wonderful, albeit so very long delayed, that many people
ceased to expect the Messiah and grew angry and disillusioned instead.

Jesus, of course, was intending to turn that Messiah concept upside
down. In the next passage he will talk about his impending pain and
sorrow. He will be a suffering Servant, a dying Savior, and a resurrected
Lord. At the time of Peter's pronouncement, Jesus instructed his
disciples not to tell anyone; yet. After his resurrection, this changed to
the command, "Go tell the whole world and make disciples of all
people everywhere."

Peter believed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. But at
this point in his life, his vision was still blurred. He didn't understand
what lay ahead, nor how dramatically Jesus, the Anointed One, would
change his life.


Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.


Icebreaker:  When you refer to Jesus or to God, what name or descriptive
                    phrase are you most comfortable using?


Jesus didn't look like a Messiah in the opinion of the religious leadership,
at least not the kind of Messiah they were expecting.
            Where do we get our images of what people should look like or
                        how they should behave.
            When have you missed the chance to befriend someone because
                       you didn't care for their appearance or activities?
            What were some things Jesus did which the Pharisees disapproved of?


Matthew's gospel includes a second clause, "You are the Christ, the Son of
the living God
            What does that add to Peter's answer?
            How did Peter arrive at this faith statement?
            Do you think Peter had a clear picture of who Jesus was?


There's a book on my bookshelf which includes 42 names for Jesus taken
from the Bible which describe who Jesus is.
            Make a list of names for Jesus and see how many you can get.
Think back to the word you mentioned in the Icebreaker.
            Is that the same word you use to address God when you pray?
                        Why or why not?


To some, the ancient concept of a Messiah seemed too good to be true.
And it had never happened anyway.
            Is there anything in your church's theology which seems to you to
                        be "too good to be true"?
            Do you continue to believe a day will come when justice will finally be done?
                        If so, describe what you think that day will be like?


I Corinthians 13:12 says, "Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face
to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known."
            How do those words relate to this passage and our discussion of it?


Jesus, you are my Savior, my ever-present Helper, the Lover of my soul.
The good Shepherd who keeps me on the right path whether I like it or not.
My Hound of Heaven who will not leave me be, no matter what. You are
the invisible Presence who helps me find what I have lost. You send birds
by my window to remind me that I am Yours, loved and cared for. You are
the Vision that extends my boundaries to see others and to see You in them.
You are like a hole in the clouds where the sun shines through.
            I wrote this in my journal years ago in response to this text from Mark.
            How would you answer Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?"

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