Who is Your Jesus?
Sunday of the Confession of St. Peter
Text: Mark 8:27–35
By Rev. Steven D. Spencer - Pastor
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen!
Today we celebrate the Confession of St. Peter. As a pastor I never like to miss an opportunity to preach about St. Peter. You see, St. Peter is to a preacher what President Ford was to the press. What do I mean by that? When President Ford traveled the press always showed up in hoards with cameras and crew waiting to see if he would trip and fall like he had so many times before. He never really hurt himself but it made for interesting reporting.
St. Peter is like that too. He was always tripping over his tongue and falling down. It’s not that we take delight in Peter’s failings but he’s someone to whom we can relate. He’s a real man, with real faults. Elijah or Samuel of some of the great prophets of the Old Testament we might have trouble relating to, but not Peter? No problem connecting with him.
So what do we know about Peter? We know Peter was a lot like us. His name was originally Simon Bar-Jonah. This means, Simon son of Jonah. Jonah is the same as our English name John. He was raised in a religious family. He attended catechism classes where he learned the 10 Commandments, Prayers, Creeds, and the Jewish Sacraments. At the age of 12 he was confirmed into the Jewish Church through a process called bar mitzvah. His father was a fisherman, not a priest or pastor. So his upbringing was probably very much like yours or mine. He decided to go into the family trade and took over the fishing business.
We also know that Peter was raised in a time when most of the Jews were Zionist. They believed that the Messiah would come when the temple was restored. And when He came He would be the Conquering King, a Mighty Warrior who would restore Israel to its previous glory. Israel would then become the reigning power of the world. By the way, to this day the majority of religious Jews hold this understanding of the messiah. Therefore, they reject Jesus as messiah because He came meek and humble to suffer for our sin. He didn’t come to be bigger than life, to beat people into submission or to inflict suffering. He came to be the life, to subject Him self for our suffering, to be the sacrifice for sin.
One other thing to note of Peter, he was very zealous. He was like one of those kids back in school who always thought they had the answer. The teacher would ask a question and up goes their hand. Ooh, ooh mister Cotter, choose me, choose me! Except that Peter was worse. He didn’t raise his hand, he just blurted out what was on his mind. I wonder how many times the other disciples were thinking, “Gee, I knew that why did Peter cut me short and not let me answer?” Do you think it ever caused any bad feelings? (Pause) It probably did. Let me give you an example. Listen carefully to John 20 verses 2-6
2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there,
Did you notice how many times Peter was put in the negative light by John. The disciple that Jesus loved! This was the disciple that Jesus preferred. This was the disciple that ran faster! It seems trivial but it helps us understand something important. Regardless of: Who you are or what others might think of you, God wants to use you! It doesn’t matter if you can run fast or can’t run fast, God wants to use you! It doesn’t matter if you are a know it all or know nothing, God wants to use you! It doesn’t matter if you are a chatter box or a shy person; God wants to use you even as He used Peter.
Our text today is preceded by an important event. Just verses before our text some people bring a blind man to Jesus to heal. Listen to the account. Mark 8:23-25 “And taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes, and laying His hands upon him, He asked him, "Do you see anything?" And he looked up and said, "I see men, for I am seeing them like trees, walking about." Then again He laid His hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly.”
The blind man doesn’t see everything clearly right away. He sees shapes and objects but doesn’t really see clearly. Remember that for a moment. Now listen carefully to the dialog with Jesus and His disciples. Mark 8:27 And Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He asked His disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" 28 And they told Him, saying, "John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets." 29 And He continued by questioning them, "But who do you say that I am?" It was Peter who answered and said, "Thou art the Christ."
Did you see the connection? Just like the blind man the disciples don’t quite see things clearly. Jesus asks, who do people say that I am?
This is a question that theologians, historians, philosophers, and common folk have pondered for centuries. Who is Jesus? Was he just a good man or philosopher who left us with some virtuous teachings to live by? Was he just another prophet? Or was he a madman or who thought he was divine, or an impostor who claimed to be God? Did he even really exist, or was he just a fabrication of men who lived nearly two thousand years ago? People today have all sorts of ideas about Jesus. But really who is Jesus? People need to see there is a difference between what the world teaches and what they should believe.
Today, as in centuries past, attacks have been made on the deity of Jesus Christ. But what the world believes, what your neighbor believes, what those around you believe isn’t what saves you or what condemns you! The people believe you to be, "John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets." But Jesus didn’t stop asking questions there. He continues and goes on to ask what really matters, “But who do you say that I am?"
Faith is a very personal thing. Yes it can be affected by those around us, but no one can believe for you! No one can have faith for you! And no one can be saved for you! Notice it was good old Peter who answered first, "Thou art the Christ." I like the way St. Matthews records it: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." No other answer will bring salvation. When you realize how sinful you are, how utterly lost you are, how damned you ought to be, only then you can realize how gracious He (T) is! When that happens you’ll become like Peter and will not be able to keep the truth to yourself, “JESUS IS THE CHRIST!” Jesus, You are the Messiah, You are the Son of the Living God. And if He (T) is the Son of God then He is God. God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God begotten not made.
Did you get it? Jesus being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary And was made man; for us and our salvation. This Jesus is God and Man!
For Peter this was an enormous epiphany. But this epiphany didn’t come by accident. In Matthew 16:17 Jesus says, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” It’s still that way today. You can only know God when He reveals Himself to you. God reveals Himself through His Word (Romans 10:17) “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
All the hopes of Israel, all the dreams of Jerusalem everything a good Jewish boy had looked forward to seeing was fulfilled in that moment. But let’s pause and ask; who was Peter’s Jesus - who was Peter’s Messiah? What did he expect from the Messiah? World domination - freedom from earthly toil - heaven on earth. Peter’s Zionism affected his understanding of the Messiah. We see that just a couple verses later.
Mark 8:31-32 “And Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.” I can almost hear Peter. Wait a minute Jesus, what about my plans? I have all these ideas about what you ought to be doing and now you want to mess it up?
Are we really so different. Don’t we want a Jesus that will give us everything we want? (PAUSE). Peter ended up being rebuked publically by Jesus. You might remember those words. “Get behind me Satan; you’re not setting your mind on the things of God but on the things of man.” It’s always that way. What we want, our desires, our ambitions, our egos (EGO Edging God Out) always get in the way of God’s peace and His plan for our lives. We think we know best and try to bend Jesus into being someone who will provide that for us.
But Jesus says: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” To deny your self is to put someone else first. To take up the cross is to consider your self dead. And to follow Jesus is to find life and a peace that surpasses all comprehension.
If Jesus had done what Peter wanted, you and I wouldn’t be saved today. But Jesus did what He came to do. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried; And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; And ascended into heaven, And sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead; and His kingdom shall have no end.
So who is Your Jesus? He is the Christ. He is your strength and He is your salvation for He alone has paid the price for your sin with His very own blood. So in (T) Him you can know beyond a shadow of any doubt that all your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, for Jesus sake and in Jesus name, Amen and amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, AMEN.