Do you ever read through the Bible and picture yourself there? As you are reading some scenes, can you see the scene in your head? For me, this is one of those scenes I can just picture being at.
Jesus is walking to Ceasarea Philippi with His disciples. If the narrative from the previous scene follows immediately, they are in the process of walking the 25 Miles from where Jesus healed the blind man (Bethsaida), to the towns around Ceasarea Philippi. On a related topic, they are walking to a town that is essentially dedicated to the chief human leader of their time - Caesar. That alone makes an interesting parallel to the question posed!
Walking 25 miles. Tired possibly, though less so than us as they were used to walking more than we are! Footsore a little. Emotionally maybe they are still processing the healing of the blind man – that was a pretty serious miracle! They had just witnessed something completely out of this world, unheard of. Someone who was blind, being able to see. They could even see the process as first the healing wasn’t complete – then after a second touch the blind man was healed.
One quick thing to remember – we have heard the Gospel. We have heard about Jesus, we know about His death and resurrection. We may know many of the recorded acts of Jesus, and even some more in depth things from the later letters in the Bible. We may even have faith in Jesus! The disciples knew none of this – they were living right in this passage, right in this time, and anything after was still unknown and in the future.
Let’s take a quick look at the passage in question.
Mark 8:27–30 (ESV)
And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
So they are walking along, possibly a little tired, certainly in their minds trying to work through what just happened with the blind man and who Jesus was – and Jesus decides to throw them a few questions.
“Who do people say that I am?”.
Good question really. This isn’t a personal question (don’t worry, its coming). Simply a question about ‘everyone’, a question about what ‘the world’ thinks. Who do people say that I am? What do people say about me? And the answer is varies, but can be summarized – no one is sure – but they do not yet think He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the World.
But then Jesus goes all personal on them. Forget generalities, forget personal space. Here goes.
“But who do YOU say that I am?”.
Uncomfortable. The question is put out there to the disciples, who remember, are still living in this passage – they know nothing yet of the future. But they have seen some amazing things. There is no room for escape, only space for an honest answer. Peter, obviously a leader, speaks up “You are the Christ”. There it is – out in the open. Jesus isn’t just some prophet, just a ‘good guy’ – but the prophesied savior.
Jesus didn’t ask for opinions about what others thought. Jesus didn’t ask what the latest scholarly opinion of him was. Just simply, who do you say I am?
And so Jesus asks today. The world still doesn’t know what it thinks of Jesus. Some think he is a prophet (Muslims for example). Some think he was a ‘good man who died for loving people’ (I’ve heard that one a lot). Some think he was ‘just this guy’ who lived an exemplary life, showing love to all around him, but was nothing more. Others think Jesus is a fraud.
But even today, there is no room for others opinions – Jesus is still asking each one of us , personally, “Who do you say that I am?“. What will you answer?