How can you know that you really and truly know Jesus? Some people claim to know Jesus, others claim they don’t know him nor care. But of those who say they know him, they often say they believe in him, they trust him, and they love him. In this group of people who claim to know Jesus, some truly and really know him while others in this group don’t.
Some know of Jesus without knowing him truly, really, or intimately. Paul lived to know Jesus Christ and make him known. He said in Philippians 3:8, 10-11:
More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… 10 My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead (CSB).
Some people know Jesus the way Paul knew him. Indeed, we presume that all Christians who are members of CrossView Church know Jesus to some degree in the way Paul did, truly, really, intimately, and personally. But it is true that there are many people out there who know of Jesus, maybe even some true things about Jesus, but they don’t know him personally, truly, really, or intimately.
Some have not been well-taught of what the Scripture says regarding Jesus. Some are so familiar with basic facts about Jesus that they can hardly describe their relationship with Jesus as deep, flourishing, and joy-giving. Others know what it’s like to know Jesus, but need to taste afresh the glories of Jesus Christ as we all do. God wants to make Christ known to us this morning. He wants us to know Jesus truly, really, intimately, and personally. But to do that we have to listen to what God is actually saying here in Mark 8.27-33.
The main point today is this: Grasp three key factors in this text to truly and really know Jesus. If you’re not a Christian, maybe today you will know Jesus truly and personally for the first time. If you’ve been a Christian, Jesus is calling you to a deeper and refreshing taste of his goodness and glory.
Let’s look at the story of this passage as a whole first and let the story shape our thoughts and hearts as we meditate on it. Jesus goes with his disciples toward Caesarea Philippi, a Gentile area. On the way he asks his disciples who others say Jesus is. They tell Jesus that some think he’s John the Baptizer, others Elijah, or another of the prophets of old. Jesus then puts the questions straight at the disciples asking them who they thought Jesus was. Peter answered, on behalf of the group I think, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus then warned them not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Then Jesus began to explain to them that he was going to suffer, be rejected, be killed, and rise from the dead after three days. He talked to them about this confidently and with great assurance. Then Peter, shocked like all the other disciples, pulled Jesus aside and began to rebuke Jesus and tell him how wrong he was and why he was mistaken. Jesus then rebukes Peter saying, “Get behind me Satan, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God but on the things of man.”
So from this story there are 3 things God wants you to grasp about Jesus.
Know Who Jesus Is (8.27-30)
Let’s look at verse 27: And 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?” While on the way to Caesarea Philippi Jesus asks the all-important question. But what’s the significance of asking it here at this place, or on the way to this place. Caesarea Philippi was a place where there was Baal worship, then where the Greek god Pan was worshiped. He was half man and half goat, worshiped as the god who controlled flocks and nature. The place was renamed Caesarea Philippi by Philip who renamed the place in honor of Caesar Augustus. Roman emperor worship was also promoted in this area. So here where Baal, the Greek god Pan, and a Roman emperor were worshiped at some point in history, Jesus will reveal his identity to his disciples who as his apostles will perpetuate the message of who Jesus is causing millions of humans to worship him without fading away, but in some ways only getting stronger and more pervasive throughout the earth.
So here Jesus asks a central question in Mark’s gospel account, and a central truth that must be articulated in every formulation of the gospel explained to others. Who is Jesus? This is a central question. It is a question of identity, not activity. It’s not, what does Jesus do? It’s not a what question, it’s a who question. And it is a polarizing question. How one answers and lives on the answer to this question literally determines their eternal destiny.
Jesus’ popularity sparked all kinds of views of who Jesus was because his works and fame forced more and more people to formulate some thought on who he was. The disciples tell him what the latest survey says (v. 28): And they told him, “John the Baptizer; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” Herod Antipas thought Jesus was John raised from the dead. Some thought Jesus was Elijah, who never physically died (2 Kings 2.11). It was prophesied that he would come again and precede the Messiah and the great day of judgment (Malachi 3.1; 4.2). Others thought Jesus was one of the other prophets that served Israel centuries ago.
Today there is no shortage of views on who Jesus is. To some Jesus is a cool, tolerant, understanding man with Christians and churches who missed what he was all about. To some Jesus is a great moral teacher who displayed love better than all else and taught it well in the golden rule. To others Jesus is a myth. Jesus.com is the website of the Metropolitan Community of Churches that say they believe in Jesus with their spin own view of Jesus accepting same sex sexual activity and partnership as not sinful.
Here are what some other popular figures have said:
- Fidel Castro: “I never saw a contradiction between the ideas that sustain me and the ideas of that symbol, of that extraordinary figure, [Jesus Christ].”
- Mikhail Gorbachev: “Jesus was the first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind.”
- Malcolm X: “Christ wasn’t white. Christ was black. The poor, brainwashed Negro has been made to believe Christ was white to maneuver him into worshiping white men… A white Jesus. A white Virgin. White angels. White everything. But a black Devil, or course.”
- Martin Luther King Jr.: “Jesus Christ was an extremist for love, truth, and goodness.”
- Rollo May (American Existential psychologist): “Christ is the therapist for all humanity.”
To some who say their Christian Jesus is a great man of God but not fully God, not fully divine himself. To Mormons Jesus was not God but a man who became one of many gods who was a polygamist and the half-brother of Lucifer. The Jehovah Witnesses say that Jesus was Michael the archangel, a created being that became a man. Unitarian Universalists believe Jesus was not God but a nice man respected for his teaching, love, justice, and healing. New age guru Deepak Chopra thinks “Christ is a state of consciousness that we can all aspire to.” Bahais say that Jesus was a manifestation of God and a prophet but inferior to Muhammad and Bahaullah. Buddhism teaches that Jesus was an enlightened man like Buddha but not God. Hindus think Jesus maybe one of many gods, or a wise man, or an incarnation of God much like Krishna. Islam teaches Jesus is a prophet but not the most superior prophet.
There is something in Jesus’ question that is polarizing. “To say that Jesus is like Elijah, John the Baptist, or a great prophet – or, as we so often hear today, that he is the greatest teacher or moral example who ever lived – may seem like an honor and compliment, but it is ultimately to deny his uniqueness and to press him into the service of old categories.” If you miss Jesus’ identity and uniqueness, even with an intention and explicit statement of honoring Jesus, you actually dishonor Jesus because you “honor” him as less than what he actually is.
So who is Jesus? Well as Jesus puts the question to the disciples we get the answer (v. 29): And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” Jesus is the Messiah. “Messiah” or “Christ” means “anointed one” and referred to prophets, priests, kings, and other figures. For Jesus to be the Messiah is to fulfill his role in some way as the one anointed by God in a way that was supreme to previous anointed ones, but to what degree was unknown.
Now the Jews had a general expectation of what the Messiah was to be. It wasn’t crystal clear but they had some common ideas. They were waiting for him. Others had come claiming to be the Messiah and they failed in some serious way. The basic idea is that they saw the Messiah as a conquering king, bringing in the eschatological and promised reign to Israel as he represented Israel. They didn’t have ideas of the Messiah as the “Son of Man” like Daniel 7 or the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53. Their ideas were more along the lines of Micah 5.1-9 and other texts:
ESV Micah 5:1 Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek. 2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. 5 And he shall be their peace. When the Assyrian comes into our land and treads in our palaces, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes of men; 6 they shall shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod at its entrances; and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian when he comes into our land and treads within our border. 7 Then the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the LORD, like showers on the grass, which delay not for a man nor wait for the children of man. 8 And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep, which, when it goes through, treads down and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver. 9 Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries, and all your enemies shall be cut off.
They expected the Messiah to do three things: (1) rebuild or cleanse the temple; (2) defeat the enemy that was oppressing God’s people; and (3) bring God’s justice, that rich, restoring, purging, healing power, to bear on both Israel and the world. There were different ways of viewing these things, but the Messiah was to bring in God’s kingdom, sorting out the mess Israel was in and putting the Gentiles in their place.
So Jesus tells them to keep silent now that they know for sure he’s the Messiah (v. 30): And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. Why was Jesus telling them to keep silent? It was a combination of reasons. First, Jesus didn’t want to spark a false revolutionary fervor to attempt overthrow the Romans once again. Tied to that is the desire to guard against spurious conversions to trust and follow Christ out of political or social desires more than personally trusting, submitting to, and obeying Jesus. Thirdly, Jesus wanted to cut a different profile of what the Messiah was to be, still in line with the OT Scriptures they believed but fuller with other passages like Daniel 7 and Isaiah 53 along with what the Father was now revealing in him. Fourthly, Jesus wanted to secure the events he predicted: suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection. Fifthly, and most practically for us today, Jesus didn’t want them to spread the confusion about who they thought Jesus was before they fully comprehended who Jesus was as the Messiah of God.
So know who Jesus is. He’s not first off your best friend, role model, genie to grant your 3 wishes, a good luck charm, or a religious identity. Jesus is the Messiah (as revealed in the gospel according to Mark and the rest of the New Testament). Rejoice that the Messiah you needed as prophesied in the Old Testament was given to you by God!
Know what Jesus did (vv. 31-32a).
8.31: And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Jesus is the Son of Man. That is a reference in part to Daniel 7.13-14. It was so disconnected in idea from the popular notion of the awaited Messiah that Jesus could use this title with clear connections to the Scriptures while being free to define his Messiahship apart from popular views. But this Son of Man, who was to receive “an everlasting dominion, glory, and a kingdom that all peoples would serve him,” must suffer first.
It was necessary for Jesus to suffer, be rejected, killed, and rise not because it was fate, deterministic destiny that he couldn’t have real choice, not because he was heroic in his determination to do the right thing (though it could partly be this), but it was because it was his Father’s will and Jesus delighted to obey his Father’s will and trusted his plan and purposes.
The cross is the key to understanding not only Jesus, but God the Father. Eduard Schweizer wrote, “Whoever understands the suffering of the Son of Man understands God. It is there, and not in heavenly splendor, that one sees the heart of God.” To see this let’s look at Romans 3.24-26: [all] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Jesus had to die because he would die for the sins of sinners, being the propitiation for their sins to allow God to be both righteous in punishing sin and righteous in forgiving and declaring guilty people righteous in his sight (Romans 3.24-26).
Isaiah 53.10-11 also shows the meaning of the cross with crystal clarity: 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
Jesus had to die because he and the Father loved sinners and wanted to save, declare righteous, and accept sinners. But the only way God could do this and keep his righteousness and holiness honored and celebrated was for the Son, the Messiah, to die for sins crushed as an offering so that many can be counted righteous and accepted. So in the cross you see the heart of God – he is holy, he is righteous, he hates sin, he loves sinners, and his love is measured by the sacrifice of his Son, the Messiah.
If you’re not a Christian let me talk to you directly for a second. You need Jesus Christ because you need the death he died for sins to count for your sins and the resurrection he rose for your acceptance with God. You are not acceptable to God, just like I am not acceptable to God, because of our sins. We are sinners by nature and by choice and therefore you need Jesus. And he died so that if you repent from your sins and trust in him right now you can be saved. Call out to Jesus to save you. He is Lord and summons you in his kindness to trust him, to turn from rebelling against God, to turn from religious efforts, and trust in his death and resurrection. He calls you to submit to him as Lord and follow him. If you have questions about this message of the bible called the gospel, or if you do trust in Jesus and want to follow him, please talk to me or any of the members of our church at lunch and we’d be glad to point you to Jesus and point the way forward for you.
The cross revealed the very heart and character of not only Jesus the Messiah, but God the Father. This is why the cross and resurrection must be central and explicit in Jesus’ mind, his teaching to his followers from this point on, and for Christians today. This was a shocking statement for the disciples to hear. If you don’t understand that you can’t understand the story of the disciples’ experience from Mark 1 up to this point. They hoped Jesus was the Messiah and now they’re glad they know he is. The problem is he isn’t bringing the kingdom they thought he would, he’s going to be killed instead. And this wasn’t something they thought they heard wrong. Mark tells us in 8.32a: And he said this plainly. He spoke without stuttering or lack of confidence. He was going to die and rise and he told them so. They expected a kingdom. He told them to expect a cross.
The disciples don’t really get it yet. They understand what he’s saying, but they don’t believe it. They can’t believe it. Here’s where we need to re-learn the disciples’ experience. They didn’t understand what we so easily take as basic to Christianity. It was being revealed to them over these years of Jesus’ ministry and subsequent events. We’ve had almost two thousand years to think about what was revealed slowly to them. They didn’t understand right away:
- That Jesus is fully God and fully man
- That Jesus is the Messiah
- That Jesus is going to the cross to die for sins and rise from the grave
- That Jesus is not going to bring the kingdom in its fullness immediately or in the way they think
- That they’ll live lives primarily as messengers of a gospel message of a crucified Messiah
- That Jesus is going to come again to bring in the fullness of God’s kingdom and the new creation
And so Jesus tells them to keep silent until they get it. There would be a time to tell others about Jesus, but for them, for now, they shouldn’t speak. I want to exhort my hearers today to not speak about Jesus if you don’t understand him. If you perpetuate that he’s primarily a miracle worker, a good guy, a prophet, a bringer of justice and the kingdom, someone who’s going to renew the earth, and you minimize, assume, or don’t see the central and necessary explicit explanation, declaration, and exultation in the cross, keep silent. Don’t speak about Jesus to others. Don’t write or blog about him. Don’t spread the confusion by emphasizing what’s secondary as primary and what’s primary as secondary. Just think and get who Jesus is and what he came to do first. Understand, meditate on, and burn in passion for, and celebrate the Messiah who came to die for sins and rise for justification and reconciliation of sinners to God (and then the universe! And gloriously so!).
CrossViewers, keep the cross and resurrection of Jesus central! Beware of substituting a different truth as the center of Jesus work or message. The gospel is the message of the cross first, foremost, and necessarily so. As a church let’s keep pointing each other to the Lord Jesus and the glories of the cross and resurrection. Don’t be “MissionView Church” or “EvangelismView Church” or “LAView Church” or “MembershipView Church.” Let’s not just be called CrossView Church but let’s keep the cross of Jesus Christ always in our view together and when God scatters us through the city.
So know who Jesus is (the Messiah), know what he came to do (die for sins and rise for our acceptance with God) and…
Know How to Know Jesus
So Peter strongly rebukes Jesus because he just doesn’t get it (v. 32b): And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. Peter just called him the Messiah and now he rebukes Jesus. So Jesus rebukes him and calls him Satan (v. 33): But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Peter is arrogant. He implies he knows more of God’s will than the Messiah himself. Peter plays God rather than follows Jesus. Jesus tells Peter that he is not setting his mind on the things of God but on the things of man. He also calls him Satan. To think in human terms is to be a disciple of Satan. Peter doesn’t see the bigger picture. Like Satan who wanted to give Jesus a kingdom without a cross, Peter follows suit. Peter is zealous for Jesus here, I think in part, but his motives for a kingdom and glory and his assured understanding of messiahship is off. Peter would not really get it until it was all done and Jesus actually died, rose, ascended, and sent the Spirit down to enlighten and empower him and the rest for gospel ministry.
He had to experience it to really get it and could not get it until then. It’s like what my son went through this week with his vaccination shots. Rock got shots on Friday. I told him clearly and plainly that the pain would be strong but quick. He understands those categories. He’s gotten shots before and done well. But this time he couldn’t grasp what I was saying. The emotions, the imagination of the pain, the fear, all gripped him and rendered him unable to grasp what he so clearly grasped after it was over: it would hurt, but then the pain would be gone, and it would be alright.
It’s easy for us to question God sometimes with our shallow perception of the situations God calls us to. That’s why we complain so quickly and thank God so slowly. We can be so sure that we see it correctly, that we get it, because we see it one way and think it’s correct while we’re actually wrong. Part of our problem is that in times like this we’re not even open to the possibility of being wrong. We need to be intentional. We need to set our minds on the things of the Spirit and not the things of the flesh (Romans 8.5-6). Be radically and stubbornly biblical. Make sure you submit to biblical teaching, not human teachers teaching the Bible (including me). Be grateful for human teachers, but check what they say always against what the bible actually says.
I was talking to a non-Christian this week who told me that I turn off my mind and just submit to Jesus by giving up without really thinking independently for myself. If you’re not a Christian you might be thinking:
“This is easy for Christians to say. Any time I disagree all they have to say is, ‘you’re not setting your mind on God’s perspective but on man’s.’ Then they can easily write me off. They want to turn me into a mindless person who’s intellectually dependent on the ideas of another, even when I find them disagreeable, incoherent, and sometimes just plain wrong.”
I can see why one would think that way. I think you should find it reasonable that God won’t fit into your views of him completely if he is really God. Furthermore you should expect God to disagree with you sometimes. If he agreed with every thought you had then your thoughts are equal or superior to God’s! If my wife always agreed with everything I said then that wouldn’t be a relationship of learning from each other, that would be enslavement. But God disagrees with us and calls us to think, trust, consider, and submit to what he’s saying thoughtfully. If you don’t trust God or believe him then don’t pretend you do. Instead, honestly say where you disagree and find out what God says and consider his thoughts and words carefully and humbly. Listen and carefully consider what God says and thinks before you say it’s dumb and you don’t need it.
Lastly, we need to readily and quickly receive rebuke when someone, Jesus, or his people, clearly speak the truth to us in love. That’s our job as Christians. We are truth-speakers and we are truth-hearers. And if we don’t hear when someone speak the truth against our sin, our minds, or our hearts, than we’re more Satan-like than Christ-like. We will get it wrong. We will sin. We will see things wrongly, mistakenly, and sometimes sinfully and satanically. But we must, like Peter, receive rebuke, trust in the grace of the Messiah and his cross, repent from our sin, relearn and realign our thoughts, hearts, mind, values, passions, and life on God, his glory, and his thoughts.
So there’s a wrong way to know Jesus and a right way to know him. If you’re going to truly know Jesus you have to know him according to the truth. That means you’ll have to learn what God reveals about Jesus in the Scriptures. And if you want to really know Jesus, you have to not just learn facts and truths about him, but you must, by his grace, set your mind on thinking your thoughts according to God’s thoughts, perspective, values, and desires. This is a lifetime of conformity and joy, but it’s a direction and pursuit that all those who really know Jesus gladly pursue and count everything else as a loss to know him. We’ll look a little closer at what that entails next week in Mark 8.34-9.1.
 Many of these are taken from Mark Driscoll and Gerry Bershears in Vintage Jesus, (Crossway, 2007 ),13-15. The bullet points are taken directly from Driscoll and Bershears.
 James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, (Eerdmans, 2002), 247-8.
 Tom Wright, Mark for Everyone, (SPCK and Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 108.
 Quoted in James R. Edwards, 253.