Who do you say that I am?

James 3:1-12 & Mark 8:27-38.  from the Question Mark series of talks?

We are mid-way in our questioning of Mark’s gospel. And at the half-way point of the thinking about Jesus’ and his identity. We began with Jesus’ words: the Kingdom of God is near – repent and believe the good news. Early preaching – God is alive - God is King – get on with following him. The baptism journey includes the understanding of – to repent is to turn around – we could do that physically as a congregation as a way of illustrating our understanding of our spiritual lives. And REPENT says Jesus – we must turn back and go forwards on God’s way. It means admitting that we have been wrong – so difficult for us to do!

I have three points

1 = The story

2 = Jesus the Messiah

3 = Marion de Quidt and us as a congregation – we are disciples

The story

Let’s think about the life that Jesus has been leading since he arrived on the public scene

He has cast out evil – even in the synagogue and on a Sabbath- and he was praised for his authority and power

He has healed lepers

He has forgiven sins of a paralysed man

He has forgiven dodgy tax collectors

He has fed his disciples on the Sabbath - to the annoyance of the onlookers (Mark 2)

He has healed a man with a withered hand – also on the Sabbath and in the synagogue

He has pushed on in his ministry despite the fact that even his closest family did not really understand what he is doing

Then remember the storm, &he reveals himself in power after being woken up in the boat

He reveals his power over evil – as he casts spirits out of a violent man in bondage

He heals a women who has suffered so long – and so quietly

He raises the dead child

Then he sends out the disciples – who are able to work wonders in the power of the name of Jesus (Mark 6)

He has preached on the hillside

He feeds the crowd – because he has compassion

He teaches about the meaning – and many leave at this point

He heals the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter – after her persistence

Have any of us seen any similar miracles – or experienced the out-working of the power of God – that has given us a window into work of the Holy Spirit today?

All the time Jesus has been doing this he has chatted to the disciples, walked around the lake with them, answered questions, they have seen and heard a lot. Now they are in a quiet place, 2 days away from the fishing village – I wonder what arrangements for the family they needed to make? – off on a religious quiet day – for the business men of the fishing village – hmm – probably a bit weird? Perhaps a puzzle to the disciples.

Geography: if you go to the place – on the slopes of Mount Hermon, near the source of the River Jordan; snow on the top today – icy water gushing out – very powerful – you can look down the valley. And so it is for the disciples – they are looking back down the valley – what have they seen – 18 months or so? Time to take stock – I just wonder – what would it have been like? Have you ever stopped & had a quiet day or sometimes called retreat (I hope we shall do this together) away from home. Why do it? It is to give us time to reflect, to get perspective, to see what God is doing in our lives and around us.

Jesus needs to test the disciples now

Can any of us remember regular tests at school or college? I was nervous of a science teacher & had dreams about lots of clear glass bottles with colourless solutions inside – when I was supposed to know what was in them…

But the regular learning and testing meant that I remembered the work: the tests helped me to study to sort things out in my mind

*Next week is Quiz night in Hook – and Stephen will be working hard to test our memories!

Jesus needs to test his disciples now

Because he is about to enter the toughest part of his life – he is going to turn his face towards Jerusalem – and the Cross – and he must take the disciples with him on the journey – if they don’t get it, then YOU and I – will never hear the story – the disciples with him in Galilee are to be his witnesses, and the bearers of good news. These disciples are the ones who will be telling others

Jesus needs to test them now

So that they themselves will have clarity about what is going on. How easy it is just to go on, mindlessly from one job to another – even one spiritual high – one excitement – one event or new friend – never stopping to think about what is happening – why – what can we learn?

We know from the storyline in the gospels that there is gossip going around – we talked about it in an earlier story – the beheading of John – the gossip about Herod’s life and bad choices – the gossip about John – the gossip about Jesus himself – who is this man?
If you remember Herod, the unpleasant, bully king, has had John beheaded at a drunken birthday party – and when Herod meets Jesus he thinks Jesus is John come back to life…

Gossip – not fully or correctly informed – and it doesn’t enable Herod to make a good decision.

So Jesus takes the disciples aside to look them in the eye – it is exciting to be part of the chosen twelve. It is very exciting to be given a message to preach and to see healings, evil removed, storm stilled – and rather scary – it is exciting to be part of this – and to feel special – in fact they are special – Jesus hand-picked these guys to be his closest friends. Wow, what a privilege! What an honour! and they’ve had the perks. Now the test.

Do they actually understand – more than the thrill – what is going on here?

Jesus is not interested in the gossip of the crowds but he is very interested in the response of these men. He needs to know that they understand his purpose.


Who do you say that I am?

Jesus the Messiah

It is Peter who speaks – impulsive, the early leader, the one who jumps into the water, the one who speaks his mind – it is Peter who says what he thinks. He is commended by Jesus in another version of the same story in Matthew Chapter 16. He could have said – “prophet – who speaks God’s words” – which is true of Jesus but incomplete.  Some said – John the Baptist. But Peter answered:

You are the Messiah – (Hebrew)

The Christ (Greek)

And do we jump out of our seats in Hook? Are we stunned and excited? Awestruck – humbled? I don’t think we are – we have just got so used to these ways of talking in our church community, they are over-used words perhaps – Christ, Messiah – I wonder whether the impact is completely lost on us.

Jesus is the Anointed One: the One promised

The King – outrageous – who will lead a Kingdom greater, longer – out-stage all Roman power and authority

Perhaps this is why Jesus takes them away from Galilee – they are a new movement of followers

A new King - a new Kingdom - and a new salvation

Peter gets it right

And then gets the test wrong – when Jesus explains that this King will suffer. Not at all what Peter is expecting – or any of them. They want the Romans OUT. And their own lifestyle back IN. And Jesus says this King will suffer many things. And his followers too – must deny themselves and take up their own cross.  

Messiah – King – Saviour – Anointed one-

Peter didn’t get it completely. The disciples didn’t either just yet, but Jesus begins to explain to them – and has to hold on to the impossible and the difficult – even when his best friends disagree with him

And what about us?

Here the rubber hits the road. It is a test – a challenge for each of us. We have heard so much – so many stories and sung so many songs. At some point we face the Living God with ourselves. Where am I on this journey of faith?

It would be so easy for me to speak about Peter the disciple, about his journey of faith, and leave it there but I am deeply challenged

I believe that Jesus is asking me – who do you say that I am?

Jesus speaking:

Am I just a kind God, one who speaks gentleness, who looks always with compassion on the concerns of your day, to whom you can chat about anything that worries you, who will never push you away? Is that just who I am?

Am I just a wise God, one who knows so much about human nature, what makes you tick, and can help you live in a more wholesome way? Knows what is best. Knows how to help you live courageously and positively?

Am I just a beautiful God, one who has created the universe with its complex mathematical laws that work (that some of the congregation here understand!) – with the fiesta of colour and taste, perfume and sound – with the human capacity to write music and poetry – to paint and to sculpt?

Jesus might say to us: Is that all I am? All true, but is that all?

So as preacher, I am asking myself – have I got it?

the meaning of Messiah – anointed – KING OF KINGS – and Saviour

Saviour who is to die – that we might live

Saviour – who will be crucified – that our wretched capacity to go astray from the good life will be changed, made new

Saviour – that the past can be forgiven – do we believe that?

Saviour – that the future is totally different with Jesus Messiah

What shall we do, dear brothers and sisters?

Here we are – set aside – lovely singing – and are we to worship the Messiah? Today I have brought the oil again - the one we used at Pentecost – and if you would like more of Jesus, more inside, more that changes us – the Saviour of the world – past forgiven; Present – filled with the Spirit of the Living God; Future – new and with Him. Come for communion and ask also for anointing with oil – as a prayer asking for new life; we don’t want just to sing – and talk; we want to live the power of Messiah! I will anoint any who wish during the communion service

Who do you say that I am? Messiah – Christ – who can save even me.

Marion de Quidt, Sunday 13th September, St John the Evangelist, Hook

backThank you to authors for resources used for this sermon:

New International Study Bible
Tom Wright – Mark for Everyone