What about you?
Key verse 8:29
“But what about you?’ he asked. ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘you are the Christ.’”
This passage— short as it may be— is a turning point in many ways. In all the time that the disciples had been with Jesus, this was the time and place where they needed to make a confession that would change and shape their lives forever. So far, the disciples had simply followed Jesus, heard his words, watched his actions, and grown in their faith. Now it was time to make a decision regarding his Person— about who he really is. This is the passage that we want to talk about today. But this monumental section of Mark’s gospel there are three distinct parts.
The first part (27-30) is Peter’s confession: “You are the Christ”, and this became the “foundation stone” of the Christian faith. The second part (31-33) is Jesus’ teaching about the necessity of his suffering as the Christ. And the third part (34-9:1) is Jesus’ teaching about the cost of following Jesus the Christ. And these three parts maybe the most important teachings to his disciple— teachings that would prepare them for the life that Jesus had called them to live. And these teachings are as important to us as they had been for them at the time.
Look at verse 27: “Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around caesurae Philip. On the way he asked them, ‘who do people say I am?’” Didn’t Jesus know what people were saying about him? Of course, he did! Ever since he began his earthly ministry, he was always among people, and most of them were not exactly sure who he was. There were controversies about who he really was. Many of the crowds who had been served by Jesus were sure that, regardless of who he was, he was more than anything else God’s gift to them, for who had ever cared for them like this before! But that was the crowd. The priests on the other hand were convinced that Jesus was a fraud, a skillful magician, an impostor who pretended to be a prophet and a man of God. And they never stopped warning the crowds not to get involved with Jesus, and not to listen to him. But the crowds didn’t care much about whether he was a fraud or not, as long as they were benefitting from Jesus. At the same time, the crowds of people, could not have fully believed such things about Jesus because they weren’t blind to the fact that God was with Him. Still, the religious dispute about who Jesus was didn’t escape their regular conversations. And, they had their own opinions about Jesus. Some of them were saying that he was a prophet. And others were saying that he was a good man. Jesus had become the subject of discussion in many circles. So, Jesus brought up the subject of his person— of who he was— to his disciples. He began with a question, “Who do people say I am?”
Look at verse 28. “They replied, ‘some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’” There were all kinds of ideas floating around about who Jesus might be. But these seem to have been the general ideas about Jesus. They were nothing more than one man’s idea against another’s. But here is the interesting thing regarding all the different ideas that people had about Jesus; no one seems to have had anything bad to say about Him. Actually, people were sure that he was a great person. And not just a great man, but a great great man. The crowds of Jesus’ time gave Jesus the greatest of honors. It did not matter to them that he was maligned by the religious leaders. It did not matter to them that he was born and raised in poverty. They saw him as one of the greatest people who had ever lived. And we need to take a closer look at this particular point here.
It is a good thing that the many people recognized Jesus as a great man sent from God. Still, let me tell you; it was nothing but an idea— not the truth. It was a remarkable view— a view of Jesus these people were not quick to give to anyone else. Still, it was just an idea— not the truth. Their high praise of Jesus didn’t even come close to the “Truth”, and their view of Jesus was wrong. They were not much different from the people of any generation and of any culture. Most people who have brains, cannot deny that Jesus was an extraordinary person, unlike any other person who had ever lived. Even the enemies of the Christian faith have been kind enough to attribute Jesus with the highest honor, even if they heap insults on Christians. Some honor him as a prophet. Others honor him as a supreme humanitarian. The list of honors goes on forever. But honor and recognition are nothing— if these lack “Truth”. They are nothing if they are missing life-giving qualities. To just honor Jesus as a great man misses the mark of “truth” — it does not give life. In the end, nothing counts towards a person’s but “Truth”, not a good life, not honoring Jesus as a great prophet, not even imitating his life— nothing but “truth” will count. So, the crowds may have honored Jesus as a great man of God. But as long as there was no “Truth” in their hearts— the truth of who he really is— the Son of God— the Savior of souls— they miss the mark. And there is no life in their hearts, neither now nor on the day when every man must stand before God’s judgment seat. Knowing who Jesus is not a matter of idea or opinion. It’s a matter of “Truth”, because to have the truth or not to have the truth is a matter of life or death. Because of this Jesus gave his disciples another question. How they answer this question would determine life and destiny.
Read verse 29. “‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘you are the Christ.’” And this is no minor or trifling declaration. You must understand that at the time, no one would dare be called “the Christ”. And no one would dare call another “the Christ”. The title “the Christ” is reserved from the beginning of time for the One and Only— the One Chosen of God— who alone has claim to the Title of “the Christ” — the One to save all people from their sins. So when Peter said “you are the Christ”, it was the first time anyone had ever declared someone else to be “the Christ”.
Peter’s confession of “you are the Christ” became what we Christians call the “confession of faith”. And Peter’s confession became the foundation of our Christian faith, and the key to eternal life and to heaven. Why is this confession so significant? Simply because our salvation rests on this confession. To confess or not to confess Jesus as the Christ, has always been a matter of life or death— in fact, a matter of eternal life or eternal death. And this confession is not a confession that the mind makes but it must be a confession made from the heart. Your mind cannot conclude that Jesus is the Christ. And even if it can, it makes for nothing. Only your heart can come to know who Jesus really is and to confess him as the Christ.
Peter had grown up in a religious society. There were many holy men who made up the bulk of the Jewish society. Peter had known many such men in the synagogues and on the streets. He had seen their lives and had even admired some of them. But Peter had never felt in his heart drawn to any of them. In fact, Peter had felt that the religious life had not been for him at all. It may well be for others, but certainly he was not the kind of man who would devote his life to holy men nor to religious causes. He had seen enough hypocrisy and corruption among them to make him flinch and walk away from religion. He preferred the quiet life of a fisherman, in a boat, out on the sea somewhere. He would leave this religious “stuff” for others to follow. He was not a man of the mind, so it wasn’t so hard for him to reject religious literacy. He was instead a man of heart, and his heart warned him against religious pretense and religious deception. Peter was the last person on earth to recognize in Jesus “the Christ” and to follow him.
One day Peter was out on the sea fishing. He had spent an entire night trying to catch fish to make a living for the day. But he did not catch anything. So, he and his companions rowed back to shore to wash their nets and to call it a night. But on that morning Jesus was there preaching to the crowd. It is amazing how Peter was not interested in what Jesus was saying. As Jesus preached on the shore, Peter just washed his nets and folded them. To him, Jesus was no different from all the other preachers who came and went with the seasons. He kept on washing his nets. He did not know what he was doing! But even though Peter ignored Jesus, Jesus did not ignore Peter. On that fateful morning, Jesus asked him if he could use his boat as a platform for a morning sermon. Out of courtesy for a holy man, Peter agreed and took Jesus into his boat. When the sermon was over, Jesus asked Peter to put out to sea again, and to try fishing again. It was impossible for Peter to follow such ridiculous direction. But when he did, something wonderful happened. He caught fish when it was an impossible time of day to catch fish. But it was not only fish that Peter caught. He also caught a glimpse of who Jesus really was. Jesus was no ordinary holy man. He was no hypocrite. He was indeed a God-Man. It was then that Peter made his first confession. Remarkably, the first confession out of Peter’s mouth upon realizing who Jesus was, was a confession of sin. He confessed that he was a sinner and that Jesus was Lord. Peter was a man of heart. And his heart could not deny that Jesus was the Christ, nor that he himself was a wretched sinner in the eyes of God.
After this confession, Peter began his life as a disciple of Jesus. He began to follow Jesus because he knew— in his heart— that Jesus spoke the word of God— the “truth”. Day by day, Peter saw the life of Jesus. He witnessed the love of Jesus. He saw Jesus’ compassion for the suffering. He saw Jesus’ patience with those who were weak— weak physically and weak spiritually. He saw how Jesus bore with the crowds, and especially how much he bore with his disciples. To Peter, who had always kept a distance between himself and religious men, it was an irony that he was actually following Jesus and learning from him the godly life of faith. No matter how Peter looked at Jesus he could only see God’s grace and truth flooding Jesus’ heart and pouring out on everyone. In the past, nothing could touch Peter’s well-protected heart because there was nothing genuine in society and in life to which he could give his heart. But Jesus’ words found their way into his heart. Jesus’ words touched his soul, until Peter found himself changing. No one thought that tough-man-Peter would ever change, not even Peter himself. But he did. Somehow Peter began to care about the things Jesus cared about. He cared about others as well as Jesus did. He began to love others following in Jesus’ footsteps. He began to even bear with others, even if it were just a little. Sometimes he found himself forgiving others. It was a miracle that Peter would forgive anyone. Of course, he was no where like Jesus. But the fact that he was willing to imitate Jesus sometimes was a miracle in itself! Peter opened his eyes and saw Jesus for whom he really was. He began to see God in Jesus. He could see that Jesus was the Chosen One, the Messiah, the “Christ of God”.
When Jesus asked his disciples “But what about you”, Peter just blurted it out— he confessed the “Truth” about Jesus— the only truth that really matters in the long run. When Jesus said, “Who do you say I am?” Peter wholeheartedly declared the truth— the very truth by which his life was changed and changing. Not only that, but this confession set history on a course to eternal life and the kingdom of God for all of us. He said, “You are the Christ”. What was he saying? He was saying that Jesus is the Messiah of his soul— of all souls. Not just that, this confession goes far deeper than simply stating the truth. It is a truth that digs deep into the heart and finds deep affection and loyalty to Jesus. Peter said: “You are the Christ” and he was saying “You are my Christ— Lord you are my Friend— Lord you are my Savior. Lord, I love you— for who else can bear me and my sins except you. You are the One who forgave an unforgivable sinner like me, who welcomed me into your heart just as I am— and you are the one who took me into your family.” It was a wonderful confession. We call it “Peter’s confession of faith”, not only because it takes faith to make such a confession, but because it is a confession that comes from the heart; it comes out of a person’s faith and a person’s heart’s conviction that Jesus is the Christ. It also comes our faith in what Jesus had done in saving a sinner like me— that he laid down his life on the cross to forgive me and to set me free from form the condemnation of sin. Surely, it is the grandest of confessions, because it is founded and rooted in the Truth, a truth which can take a person out of death and bring them to life. When we make a heart-discovery that Jesus is the Christ, we had arrived at the Truth. We had arrived at life.
Most of the world heard about Jesus and many claim to know him. But to know Jesus is more than head knowledge. It is heart knowledge. When I come to know Jesus, my heart also devotes itself to Jesus because it is “truth” and the will of God for me. With his confession Peter gave his heart to Jesus. He gave his life to Jesus. He surrendered his pride to Jesus. He also gave his worldly dreams and worldly hopes to Jesus— he even surrendered his independence to Jesus, and bound himself to the will of God. Peter did not make this confession from his mouth, he made it from his heart— and with it he gave everything to Jesus, his past, his present and hid future.
When “Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him” (30) it is because a confession like this is personal, born out of the conviction of one’s own heart, not the conviction of another. When Peter said, “you are the Christ” he was in fact committing his life to Jesus to honor and to serve Jesus. “You are the Christ” became the foundation on which Peter built his life and the foundation upon which every Christian has since built their lives. And this confession does not come only once in a person’s life. It comes often, as often as there are struggles in our lives, as often as there are temptations to overcome and desires to put to death for Jesus and his glory. When troubles assail us from day to day, and life is difficult, what could be an anchor for your soul? This confession of faith! “You are the Christ” “My Christ, the One who alone can deliver me— the One I live for.” As long as we are confessing Jesus as the Christ, our soul anchors in truth, and that truth encourages us and strengthens us to stand firm in it. May God bless us to make this confession of faith not once and twice but as long as we live— until our confession of faith in Jesus and our Christian life are as one. Amen