Today we continue in our message series Jesus In Action from the book of Mark. Mark was originally written to the Christians in Rome. At the time of its writing, Christians were facing a season of intense persecution. Many believers were tortured and martyred under the Roman emperor Nero. The Gospel of Mark focuses on the actions of Jesus and who He was. Mark gives hope to believers of all ages, no matter what difficulty they may be facing.
Today, our message is entitled “Who Is Jesus?” This is undoubtedly the most important question that every human being on the face of planet earth needs to answer. The answer to the question Who Is Jesus? will determine what kind of life you live here on earth and your eternal destiny.
So, what are the possible answers to the question Who Is Jesus? The first possible answer is that Jesus never existed. The accounts of him in the Bible were just made up by the authors. The answer that Jesus never existed is not a possible answer because of the historical records that we have available. Not only do we have the Gospels, but there are other non-biblical sources that attest to the life of Jesus. Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed historically. So this answer is not possible.
The second answer to the question of Who is Jesus is that he was a liar or a crazy person. As we read the Gospels, we see that some said that Jesus was demon possessed and others that He was out of his mind. Yet, as we read the accounts of Jesus life and words, we realize that he was neither a liar nor a crazy person. So, very few if any would give this answer.
Next we come to the most popular answer, which is that Jesus was just a great teacher. A poll done this year on adults in America indicated that 52% of Americans agreed with the statement that Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God. About 1/3 of people who claim to be evangelical Christians also agree that Jesus was simply a great teacher. Was Jesus a great teacher? Of course he was, the greatest teacher the world has ever seen. But could he have been a great teacher and not God? To answer that question, we need to look at what Jesus taught. As you study the teachings of Jesus, you will find that he claimed to be God many times.
John 8:58 (ESV) Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
In this brief statement, Jesus claimed to have existed before Abraham, who lived thousands of years before Jesus was born. He also used the name of God used in the Old Testament for himself, I am, speaking of God’s eternal existence. The Jews recognized Jesus’ claim to be god and sought to stone him to death for blasphemy. Another of many examples took place in Jesus’ trial before His crucifixion.
Mark 14:61b-62 (ESV) Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Again, Jesus uses the Old Testament name of God, I am, speaks of being the divine Son of Man, seated in heaven. The high priest tore his clothes, announced that Jesus had committed blasphemy by claiming to be God and sentenced him to death. Jesus was crucified for claiming to be God. If someone today claims to be god, what are the options? The person is either a liar pretending to be god or a lunatic who is crazy thinking he is god. We would never call such a person a great teacher. So, calling Jesus a great teacher is not a logical or possible answer to the question of Who is Jesus?
That leaves us with only one possible answer, that Jesus is indeed who He claimed to be, God Himself. Why is it important that Jesus was and is God? Because the only way that He could save us from our sins is if He was God and man at the same time and lived a sinless life. Only then could He pay the penalty for our sins and be able to forgive us so we could be saved.
John 3:16 (ESV) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus had to be the divine Son of God to give us the gift of eternal life. Today, God wants each of us to be convinced that Jesus is God for our own salvation. And God wants you to be able to be a witness to the majority of people in America that think He as just a good teacher and who are not saved. So let’s see what Mark has to say about the answer to the question “Who Is Jesus?”
Mark 8:27b-28 (ESV) And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”
In Jesus’ day, just like today, people had different opinions of who Jesus was. The people of Jesus’ day had either seen or heard stories about him healing the sick, casting out demons, teaching and even raising the dead. So, the answers that the people gave were all prophets, John the Baptist, Elijah or another prophet. These prophets were godly men, good teachers and even workers of miracles, but they certainly never claimed to be God. All had eventually died, even John the Baptist. Who had the Old Testament predicted would eventually come? Someone more than a prophet.
Mark 8:29 (ESV) And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”
Jesus then asked his disciples who they thought he was. Peter answered for the group, he said that Jesus was the Christ. Christ means Messiah, so Peter was saying that he and the rest of the disciples believed that Jesus was the coming Messiah. If one reads the Old Testament prophets carefully, you can see that the Messiah was seen to be God Himself. One of the names of the Messiah was to be Immanuel, which means God with us. Peter did not go along with the group think of the culture. He spoke the politically incorrect truth, that Jesus was the Messiah that they had been waiting for thousands of years. Jesus accepted Peter’s correct answer that he was the Messiah and told them not to tell others at this time.
Mark 8:31 (ESV) 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.
The conception of the Jews was that the Messiah would be a political leader, like a king, who would overthrow the Romans and reestablish the Jewish nation. After Peter correctly said that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus told them what was going to happen. It was not like anything they could have imagined. Rather than being a conquering king, Jesus, the Messiah would suffer, be rejected by the Jews and be killed. The good news was that after three days, Jesus would rise from the dead.
Mark 8:32-33 (ESV) And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 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.”
Just after Peter had correctly called Jesus the Messiah, Peter tries to rebuke Jesus for saying that he would have to die. This did not fit in with Peter’s idea of what the Messiah should do. Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter, for letting Satan attempt to use him to dissuade Jesus from his mission on earth. Peter was not understanding God’s plan, but simply looking at things on a human level. Peter and we need to recognize that Jesus is the divine Messiah, predicted in the Old Testament by the prophets.
Let’s talk a bit more about how we can use the question Who is Jesus? in witnessing today. When we get in a conversation with others about spiritual things, we can often get bogged down with difficult questions. Questions about why God allows suffering the world, what happens to people who believe in other religions and so on. Sometimes questions about different denominations or churches. Oftentimes in these discussions, we end up talking about God, who can be defined differently by different people. There are answers to those questions but not simple answers. I’d encourage you to bring back the discussion to Jesus. That’s what Jesus did, that’s what His disciples did in the book of Acts.
You can just start a conversation with the question, “Who do you think Jesus is?” If the person isn’t a true Christian, what answer are you most likely to get? They’ll say He was a good teacher. You can ask them why they think He was a good teacher. Then ask them whether they knew that Jesus claimed to be God. Depending on how the conversation goes, you can encourage them to check it out themselves by reading the Gospels and follow up with them.
If they believe Jesus is God, but have never prayed to become a believer, you have an opportunity to lead them to be saved. The question Who is Jesus? leads to conversations they get to the heart of what another person believes. Pray that God would give you opportunities to talk to people about who Jesus is. Once a person believes that Jesus is God they must …
Mark 8:34-35 (ESV) And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
Since Jesus is God, then he now explains what is required of a believer or follower of his. To believe in Jesus requires a person to deny himself first of all. To deny yourself is to stop doing what you want to do with your life. This means to stop sinning and to stop following your own plans for your life. To follow Jesus is to discern and follow His plans for your life. Jesus further illustrates what a believer is to do by saying they must take up their cross. The cross was a symbol of dying to your old way of life before you began to follow Jesus. To take up your cross is to lose your life for Jesus and the Gospel. To follow Jesus is to acknowledge Him as Lord of your life. Your whole life must be committed to doing His will.
Mark 8:36-37 (ESV) For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?
Those who are not followers of Jesus seek to gain things in this world like power, pleasure, relationships or money. If a person seeks the riches of this world then they will forfeit their soul or life. In the Greek, the work translated soul in this verse if the same word translated life in the preceding verse. Your soul is the part of you that is immortal in contrast to your body. To forfeit your soul is to choose not to follow Jesus in this life which will lead to your soul being subject to an eternity of torment in hell. Then Jesus gives us an example of how easy it is for someone to forfeit his soul, rather than following Jesus as Lord.
Mark 8:38 (ESV) For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
The majority of the world around us today is the same as it was in Jesus’ day, an adulterous and sinful generation. If a person is ashamed, embarrassed or shy to boldly speak of Jesus and His Word, it means that they want the approval of the sinful world more than the approval of God. When Jesus returns, he will be ashamed of the person who did not speak up for Him. That means that Jesus will not give that person his approval on judgement day, sending him instead to hell.True followers of Jesus will not speak only what is politically correct in their world, they will speak the truth. They will speak about Jesus and His Word no matter the persecution, no matter the cost to them, for they have decided to take up their cross and follow Him. Choose to follow Jesus as Lord.
One of the issues with living in a nation in which the majority of people identify as Christians is that there seems to be no cost in being a follower of Jesus. So, there are many people who claim or think they are Christians, who are not. Many believe they are Christians because they were baptized in a certain church, or their parents were Christian or that they are basically good people. None of those things make a person a Christian.
Many others think they are a Christian because they prayed a sinner’s prayer at some point in their lives, but their way of life never changed. To pray a prayer of repentance and belief in Jesus must be the beginning of following Jesus in all of your life as Lord or that prayer was simply words. A true believer will deny himself, take up his cross and follow Jesus. The time is coming and already arriving in America where being a true Christian is starting to cost people. We must never be ashamed of the truth of God’s Word, but boldly bear witness to it, no matter the ridicule or persecution that may come. That is what it means to follow Jesus as Lord.
Mark 9:2-3 (ESV) And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.
Jesus took his closest disciples with him to a mountain to reveal himself as the son of God. The Scripture tells us that Jesus was transfigured before them. Jesus revealed to them himself as the Son of God, shining in glory with an intense and indescribable light. It was as if Jesus removed the veil of human flesh to reveal himself as God to them for a moment.
Mark 9:4 (ESV) And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.
Elijah representing the prophets and Moses, representing the Law then appeared with Jesus. These men had died thousands of years ago, but were with God in heaven and came down on this special occasion. Life after death is reality and Jesus was revealing it to his disciples.
Mark 9:7 (ESV) And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
If seeing Jesus in his glory and Elijah with Moses was not enough, God the Father spoke from heaven and spoke of Jesus as His beloved Son who must be listened to. Peter, James and John now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was not just a man, a human being. He was truly God, the divine son of God.
Mark 9:9 (ESV) And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Again, Jesus reminded the disciples that they were not to tell others, either that He was the Messiah or that He had revealed to them that He was God until after the resurrection. After the resurrection, all of these revelations would be part of their witness for Jesus. The disciples were confused as they knew the Scriptures that said Elijah must come before the Messiah and they had just seen Elijah. Jesus then explained that John the Baptist, who had announced the way for Jesus the Messiah, had come first as an Elijah.
Mark 9:12 (ESV) And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt?
Finally, even though Jesus is the Son of God, he makes it clear that He will suffer, be treated badly, die and then rise from the dead. That was God’s plan for the Messiah, already revealed by the Old Testament prophets. Jesus had to die to take away the sins of the world and then rise triumphant over death as Lord of all. We must embrace Jesus as the divine Son of God.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that as Christians, we tend to emphasize that Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sins. That is certainly true, but if that was the end of the story, our sins wouldn’t be forgiven. The end of the story of Jesus in the Gospels is that He rose from the dead. We see the disciples emphasizing Jesus’ resurrection over and over as they witnessed in the book of Acts. Since Jesus is God, He had to have risen from the dead. Since He’s risen from the dead, He is alive today and alive forever more. As the resurrected Lord, Jesus reigns as Lord of Lords and King of Kings forever.
Every other religious founder such as Buddha, Muhammed, Krishna and others are dead. Only Jesus Christ is alive. All religions are not the same. The only true religion Christianity is based on a living founder, Jesus Christ. In our lives, we must embrace Jesus as the living Son of God.
Today, we’ve answered the most important question that can be asked “Who is Jesus?” It’s important for each of us to give an accurate answer to those who ask us why we believe. We believe in Jesus because we understand who Jesus is. We recognize Jesus as the promised Old Testament Messiah. We choose to follow Jesus as Lord, which is the only way to follow Jesus. Those who seek to follow Jesus as Savior but not as Lord are not true followers of Jesus.
We embrace Jesus as the sinless Son of God. Not only did Jesus die for our sins, he rose from the dead three days later and lives forever more. We are not ashamed of Jesus, our faith in Him or His Word. We look forward to Jesus’ return to this earth and a new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwells. Jesus must be everything to us.