Theme - Who do you say Jesus is?
Who do you say Jesus is? There are those who would say that he is a figment of our imagination, that he didn’t really exist at all, that the question itself is therefore irrelevant. It is just a warped enquiry from those of us who don’t have the mental awareness to forge our own destiny. Others say that Jesus was a good man, a talented teacher, an ethicist or great renown, but most certainly not God. To the Muslims, he is a prophet second only to Mohammed. To the Hindus he is one among many gods.
There seemed to be confusion even among those who saw, heard and followed Jesus. We find in Mark 8, when Jesus asked his closest group of followers who he was, they answer “well, some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah and others say you are one of the other prophets” It seems that the jury was out even among these people who had met and who knew Jesus. It is no surprise therefore to see attitudes today to be in some ways similar.
It must be discomforting though, to those who would rather Jesus was an irrelevance to see him causing just as much commotion today as he did in the 1st Century. The debates continue to rage between faith and secularism. Whilst mainstream Church attendance has to continually answer to the statistical analysis that suggests we are on our way out, the evangelic fellowships are enjoying a time of significant growth. The symbol of his death is worn by countless people followers and non-followers alike and is a staple product of jewellery shops and rap artistes. His name has become part of the vernacular and the profane, sadly to the point that a number of people actually think that the surname of Jesus was Christ.
C.S. Lewis one of the great apologists of the last century gets to the point when he cautions us to consider the following. Jesus acted in ways and made claims about himself that in truth were so alarming that one is left with the only option of being to accept that he was who he claimed to be or that we was a raving lunatic–or worse. We are not left with any other option, indeed he never intended to leave us with the soft option that we in danger of swallowing.
Earlier in Mark’s Gospel, we have heard this morning about Jesus coming up against opposition from a number of sources. The teachers of the law suggest that he is casting out demons because he is himself possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. Members of his own family think that he is “out of his mind”, perhaps part of the rationale behind Jesus’ pointed remarks later in v 31, when he points to the limits of loyalty to tribe or family as opposed to loyalty to God.
Who do you say Jesus is?
The protectors of the law see Jesus as a threat due in part to his enduring popularity among the poor and his challenge to the purity and cleanliness laws of the day; effectively bypassing the role of the Temple in worshipping God. Jesus is portrayed then as a political and economic threat to the prosperity of the rich and powerful in Jerusalem. Who did they think Jesus was?
His own family (at least some of this brothers) may have been concerned for their own safety as well as his. If Jesus is seen stirring up opposition, any punishment from the state would likely cause harm to the family as well. Who did they think Jesus was?
In due course, at least two of his brothers came to be powerful followers of Jesus, James being the leader of the Jerusalem Church in the time immediately after Jesus’ death, until his own martyrdom in AD 62.
Too often we choose the leader we want who we would be comfortable with. We don’t like too much change. In 1 Samuel we see that the Israelites were demanding a King for themselves. Historically this may have made them feel more like a proper nation. We see today now political parties, groups of countries, football teams flock around a leader, as long as he is successful and brings them the kind of success they want. God was against Israel having a King for the reason being that they had one already, God himself. God warns them through Samuel that giving power to one person won’t end well. That they will be abused, stolen from and defrauded. Sound familiar? But in spite of all this, the Israelites have bought the lie. They have been taken with the vision that having a King; one that they can see and perhaps control is what they want. So God tells Samuel to warn them of the consequences but if they still insist to give them what they want.
It is interesting that we often hear that God in the Old Testament is seen as a jealous God, or as a wrathful God, but here God is saying I am your King and you don’t want me. OK, I will give you what you want. This is Israel deposing God as their King. He knows that they will regret this in the long term.
Seeing this, Who do you think Jesus is?
Jesus acted and spoke as though he was in charge. He didn’t claim authority from the Jewish leadership, he claimed instead that God had given him all authority in heaven and on earth and then went around behaving as though that was the case. Once again the people – in truth those in power- decided that they didn’t want to be replaced and this certainly wasn’t the kind of King that had in mind. Jesus was far too rebellious for the world that they were in. He was more likely to bring down the wrath of Rome than free them from Roman bondage, at least from their perspective. So they killed him and thought they had solved the problem; they still did not understand what they were doing.
When we see that God is king, how does that make us feel? Do you feel threatened? Do you feel concerned that Jesus will order you around? That he will curtail your freedoms? That he will take away your independence? Do you feel that way because that is what we are used to our leaders doing?
And yet Jesus says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Do you trust him? If Jesus is king, what sort of kingship do you see? Emperor or servant. Killer or healer. Judge or saviour.
Who do you think Jesus is?
In Jesus name