God’s Word for You
Mark 8:27-30 The Christ
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, March 21, 2020
Not without good reason, Professor R.C.H. Lenski makes this point the beginning of the second half of the Gospel of Mark. The reason for this is that, prior to this account, there has been almost no hint of Jesus’ suffering mentioned. But from this point, “the note of suffering meets us at every turn” (Lenski, p. 333). At this moment, Jesus turns north, away from his enemies, in order to begin his final journey through the heart of the Promised Land until he will finally come to Jerusalem and the purpose of his journey, his ministry, and even his incarnation in the flesh: the cross of Calvary.
Jesus Is the Christ
27 Jesus went away with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. While the road, he asked his disciples, “Who are people saying that I am?”
Caesarea Philippi was a city about 24 miles (33 kilometers) north of the Sea of Galilee. Its old name had been Paneas, and although Herod Philip changed that and renamed it after himself, the modern village of Baneas seems to show that the older name is what stuck. Jesus did not enter the city itself but went into its villages. We would say that he entered the suburbs. This was the northern frontier of the ancient land of Canaan, the tribal land once held by Dan on the southern slope of Mount Hermon.
Before they got there, Jesus asks about public opinion. “Who are people saying that I am?” It was a question that was on the minds of the disciples themselves. Apart from the first verse of the first chapter, the word “Christ” has not occurred up to this point in the Gospel of Mark. The disciples have had hints about Jesus, but even though some of the disciples suspected who it was that they were following (“We have found the Messiah,” John 1:41), there was no definite statement about this yet. Soon, the Sanhedrin would decide that “anyone who acknowledges that Jesus was the Christ” would be excommunicated (John 9:22).
28 They told him, “John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others say one of the prophets.”
John? Hadn’t John been executed in a prison out in the desert east of the Dead Sea (Mark 6:27)? Yes—but even Herod Antipas, the man who had him executed, thought that perhaps John had risen from the dead (Matthew 14:1-2) and was now performing miracles. The mention of Elijah fits with the text of Malachi 4:5, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.” Jesus would explain the Malachi passage a little later (Mark 9:11-13).
The people evidently tossed around the names of other prophets besides Elijah; Matthew tells us that Jeremiah was one of these names (Matthew 16:14) but there was no prophecy or legend about Jeremiah’s return. Clearly the people were both confused and impressed by Jesus. They didn’t know what to make of him.
29 And then he asked them: “But you, who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You, you are the Christ.” 30 Then he warned them that they must not tell anyone about him.
Peter is not alone in his belief; he speaks for the others. They believed that Jesus was not simply a forerunner of the Messiah, but that he was the Messiah himself. Χριστός (christos) “Christ” means the one who has been anointed. It’s the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew and Aramaic “Messiah.” The Christ had been prophesied in the Old Testament (Isaiah 61:1; Daniel 9:25-26). Peter carefully includes the definite article ‘the’ (ὁ), when he calls Jesus “the Christ.” There is one Christ, and there is no other. Jesus did not become the Christ at a particular time while he was on earth (for example, at his baptism), but he was the Anointed Christ of God from the very moment of his incarnation in the womb of Mary. The angel said to Joseph, “He will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). There is no condition to that promise, no qualifying “if he is faithful.” It was already known by the Father what Jesus would do because Jesus was and is his Son. The Son of the Father is every bit as divine as the Father; they are one God (“I and the Father are one,” John 10:30). Peter and the other disciples showed us with their confession of faith that they believed as we believe: Jesus is the promised Messiah. He is worthy of our honor and our worship. To praise Jesus and to pray to him is not idolatry, but true worship of the one God. Paul explained: “We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:12).
Today there are still people who don’t know how to answer Jesus’ question correctly. Some say he was a great prophet. Some question whether he ever lived at all. But we accept the eyewitness accounts of the Gospels and the eyewitness testimony of the hundreds who saw him even after he rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:6). Jesus is the Christ. He is risen from the dead. He reigns over all of creation, and on the last day he will welcome home into heaven everyone who believes in him.
Pastor Timothy Smith