I would like to introduce myself to you this morning. My name is Jerry, the Hoek. Sitting over here is George, the Garden. And back there is one of our elders, Richard, the Davis. Now we would all think that such a way of introducing ourselves or others is very strange. Our last name is simply that: a name. It is not a title of any sort. This morning we continue our study of the names and titles of the Son of God as explained in the Heidelberg Catechism in the section dealing with the Apostles’ Creed. Last week we looked at the name, Jesus, which means Savior. Now we look at the word Christ. There tends to be a common misunderstanding among people that the word “Christ” is Jesus’ last name. But Christ is not just another name of Jesus. It is a title, or a description of who Jesus is and what He will do. Jesus is the “Christ!”
In the verses that we read this morning we see how Jesus’ disciples learned that Jesus is the Christ. But we also see how they learned that Jesus will be the kind of Messiah or Christ that would far exceed their expectations and needs. This morning we too will learn that Jesus, the Christ far exceeds our limited expectations as well. Let’s read Mark 8:27-38.
I. Let’s look first at the general perception of Jesus.
On the way to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” The disciples respond by giving several views that were popular among the people. Some people were saying that Jesus was John the Baptist. John the Baptist had urged the people to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. He had been killed not too long before this and evidently some people thought that he had come back to life in the form of Jesus. Others were saying that Jesus was Elijah. Elijah was the great Old Testament prophet who brought God’s word with power to a nation that had wandered from God. The Old Testament prophet Malachi had said that Elijah would come back again and so some thought that perhaps Jesus was Elijah coming back. Still others were saying that Jesus was another prophet to help the people prepare for the coming of the Messiah.
The people in general couldn’t really understand who Jesus was. There is some evidence that Mark uses the word “people” to describe people who have not had the truth of the gospel yet revealed to them. They didn’t understand who Jesus was because God hadn’t revealed it to them. That is true of people today as well, isn’t it? Perhaps you know people who don’t seem to really understand who Jesus is. They think that Jesus was just an interesting person but nothing more. It may be that the Spirit has not opened their eyes to the truth of who Jesus is.
II. In verses 29-30, Jesus reveals to the disciples that he is the Christ.
Jesus asks the disciples, “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Jesus takes the topic from the theoretical to the personal level. Imagine that you are in the middle of a meeting at your office. Decisions need to be made. Your colleagues are weighing in with their opinions. Suddenly, your boss turns to you and says, “What do you think?” Scrambling for a suitable answer, you begin: “Well, statistics indicate that Plan B would be profitable ... though of course Plan A does offer some attractive benefits ... and then again, many believe that Plan C is ...” Your boss interrupts you: “Actually, I’d like to know what you think.” This may be how the disciples felt when Jesus asked them, “Who do you say I am?” “Never mind what the others are thinking; what do you think?”
Peter responds by saying, “You are the Christ;” a word which means anointed one. In the Old Testament, a person who was chosen by God for special service was anointed by pouring oil over the person’s head. Prophets were anointed in this way to show that God had chosen them to be His special spokesman to bring God’s word to the people. Priests were anointed, symbolizing that God had chosen them to bring the needs of the people to God. Kings as well were anointed, symbolizing that they ones specially chosen by God to rule over the people. An anointed person was chosen by God to do something special for God.
Now as the Old Testament developed, God revealed that at some point in time, one person would come who would be the anointed one. This would be the “Messiah,” or in the Greek, the “Christ.” This one person would be the one who would bring God’s full blessing on the people once again. Now as time went on, the people’s picture of this messiah also changed. The Jews began to expect someone like King David who would restore the nation and people to their previous place of honor in the world. By the time of Jesus, the people believed the coming messiah would be a national figure who would free the Jews from the Roman rule and restore nation of Israel.
Now when Peter claimed that Jesus was the Christ, he likely had this kind of person in mind. He knew that Jesus was more than just another prophet; Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Jesus was the One whom God had chosen to save the people. But the disciples didn’t fully understand what it meant for Jesus to be the Christ. And so in verse 30, Jesus tells them not to tell anyone yet that he was the Messiah. If the word got around that Jesus was the Messiah, the people would expect Jesus to become a leader who would lead them against the Romans. Moreover, Jesus didn’t want them to fill his
messiahship with their own dreams. And that is why Jesus then immediately begins to show them that he is the Messiah through suffering, not in national might or political power.
Jesus said that he must suffer many things, be rejected by the teachers of the law and be killed. They likely weren’t surprised by Jesus having to suffer since political leaders often have to pay a harsh price for their actions. But they must have been puzzled by the Messiah being rejected by the Jewish teachers. They thought that the Messiah would have the support of the Jewish leaders since he would be rescuing them as well. Then when Jesus says that he must also be killed by these same leaders, they were likely very confused; why would the Jewish leaders want him killed? And how can a Messiah lead a nation if he is dead?
But Jesus also goes on to say that he will also rise from the dead after 3 days. This was not at all what the disciples had thought about the Messiah. No ordinary person rises from the dead and so Peter rebukes Jesus. Jesus would clearly not be the kind of Messiah they were expecting or hoping for. Yet Jesus wanted them to realize what he would have to do to be the Messiah. If they were going to claim him as the Christ, the Messiah, they would have to do it on Jesus’ terms, not their own dreams andexpectations. But very simply the kind of Christ or Messiah that they needed was One who would save them from the effects of sin. Brothers and sisters, Jesus the Christ came to help us in our real needs today as well.
The Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 12 gives a very thorough answer to the importance of Jesus coming as the Christ. Question: Why is he called “Christ,” meaning “anointed?” Answer: “Because he has been ordained by God the Father and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit to be our chief prophet and teacher who perfectly reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God for our deliverance; our only high priest who has set us free by the one sacrifice of his body, and who continually pleads our cause with the Father; and our eternal king who governs us by his Word and Spirit, and who guards us and keeps us in the freedom he has won for us.”
Jesus came as the anointed prophet for our benefit. He came to announce and bring God’s plan of salvation for a lost world. Jesus also came as the anointed priest. Jesus, as our priest, offered himself as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin. Jesus the Christ also came as the promised anointed king of all people everywhere. He is King and Lord, and so controls every part of our lives. And as such he “guards us and keeps us in the freedom he has won for us.” The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, was built by Prussian monarchs in the 18th century, but became even more famous in the late 20th century as a symbol of peace when the dividing wall between East and West Germany came down in 1989. Many families who had been separated for decades were now able to have joyous reunions as a result. But even more, people had freedom to be what they wanted to be and go where they wanted to go! Jesus, the Christ is the one who communicated God’s love to us, took our punishment for our disobedience on Himself and as a result we now have freedom! The question that remains for us is the one that Jesus asked His disciples.
IV. Who do you say Jesus is?
Regardless of what others around you are saying, who is Jesus personally to you? Do you accept him as your Christ, who suffered and died for your sins? Or do you want Jesus to be the kind of Christ who just gives you what you want or what you think you need? If we claim that Jesus is the Christ, then we must accept him as God’s chosen, anointed Savior for us in our sins. We must admit that he alone is the one whom God chose to bring salvation to me. We must admit that it is only through Jesus suffering and death that we can be reconciled to God; there is nothing else that will make us acceptable to God. And we must then submit to him fully as our King.
If we do that, then we may also take the name of Christ and call ourselves “Christians.” That is what Question and Answer 32 says very powerfully. Question: But why are you called a Christian? Answer: “Because by faith I am a member of Christ and so I share in his anointing. I am anointed to confess his name, to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks, to strive with a good conscience against sin and the devil in this life, and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity.” What a powerful statement of who we are! Jesus as the Christ saved us and now we share not only his name, but also as his followers who are to live for him now and anticipate reigning with him in eternity.