Sunday

16 September 2018

Mark 8:27-38

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?’ (v. 27)

Psalm: Psalm 116

Background

This passage is sometimes described as being like a bridge or a turning point in the story of Jesus as recorded by Mark. Up to this point in the gospel story Jesus has been very active, journeying from village to village, teaching and healing people. The powerful activity of Jesus has been offered generously to all he has met and included all kinds of people normally excluded by others. Jesus, and the disciples, know that to include non-Jewish people will draw attention to him, and them, from the religious leaders. The disciples, however, do not seem at first to have much insight of what they have become involved in. It is intriguing that Jesus seems interested in public opinion – the question is not addressed initially to the disciples about their understanding of Jesus’ activity, “Who do you say that I am?”, but rather the first question is, “Who do people say that I am?’ This then seems to be a sifting of public opinion by Jesus through the seeking of some feedback from the disciples. Jesus is curious and seeks information from the disciples about what is being said about him by others. The disciples give a variety of answers with a common thread – Elijah, John the Baptist, or one of the prophets. No one tells Jesus that the people think he is an upstart carpenter or a revolutionary – he is clearly a man of God with a powerful and prophetic message and an ability to transform lives.

When the question of identity is asked directly of the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”, Peter receives a revelation and displays an insight he has only just been given – “You are the Christ”. Peter goes on to express his objection to Jesus’ declaration that he must suffer. He objects, not so much because he doesn’t understand, but because he sees the contradiction of a Messiah, a Saviour, of God, suffering. It does not make sense to Peter – but it is God’s chosen way. To follow Jesus, the disciples learn, is to faithfully walk this same chosen way.

To Ponder

  • Does it matter what others think about Jesus? Why?
  • What are the consequences of being a person of faith?

Bible notes author

Revd Helen Cameron

Helen Cameron is a Methodist presbyter and Chair of the Northampton District. Prior to this she was the Assistant Secretary of the Conference and Director of Methodist Formation at the Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education in Birmingham.