He is the Christ!
We come this morning to one of the most important passages in the Gospel of Mark, and indeed one of the most important passages in the whole of Scripture.
The MAIN POINT of this story is to point out the universal problem of mankind, to show that Jesus is able to overcome that problem, and to ask us what may be the most important question that you will hear in your life.
So, what Mark does in this passage is sort of build a 3-layer pyramid. The middle of the passage is the problem he is attempting to show us. On either side of that he illustrates the problem. And on either side of that he shows the remedy to the problem. That’s why we’re taking all of this passage at once this morning, because the whole thing works together. This is a literary device the Hebrews used to emphasize a point. The 2-dollar seminary word for it is “chiasm”.
Right smack in the middle of the passage is a story very similar to one just a page or two back in your Bibles. It is a story of Jesus feeding thousands of people with just a handful of food. Back in chapter 6 we see the story of Jesus feeding 5,000, and here we have him feeding a crowd of 4,000. However, the emphasis this time is not on the miracle itself. The emphasis now is on the response to the miracle.
Here’s what I mean:
- the Pharisees – After he feeds thousands of ppl, they ask for a sign from heaven as proof that Jesus is who He says He is.
- the disciples – They had one loaf of bread and were worried that they didn’t have enough to eat, again – RIGHT after Jesus just fed 4,000 people with 7 loaves.
The focus of this passage is the INTENSE spiritual blindness of those around Jesus – even those most close to Him. The Pharisees – well, we sort of expect them to be hard-hearted. We have come to expect that they aren’t going to see Jesus for who He is. They love themselves and their works too much for that.
But the disciples! These were men who have been with Jesus from the beginning. They’ve seen Him drive out evil spirits, heal leprosy, heal paralyzed men. They’ve heard His powerful preaching, and seen Him calm a raging storm with a single word. They’ve seen Him walk on the water, feed thousands of people with a handful of food – TWICE. They’ve even seen Him raise a little girl from the dead! And they’re there in the boat with a loaf of bread, thinking – “We don’t have enough to eat.”
And so you can feel the sense of anguish Jesus must have felt. You can hear the heart-wrenching pleading in His words as He speaks to them. “Do you still not understand?…Do you still not understand?”
And they didn’t. They did not understand, despite everything they had seen thus far. How is this possible? How could they walk with Jesus every day, seeing and hearing, but not understanding?
Jesus points out very clearly why it is that they do not yet understand – and this is where we see the wonderful intricacy of the Bible, and of how Jesus worked. In chapter 8, verse 18, Jesus says – “Do you have eyes and fail to see? Do you have ears and fail to hear?” Now, watch this – oh it’s beautiful how Jesus sovereignly directed His steps as He was on earth: right before this part of the story, what did Jesus do? He healed a man who had ears but could not hear. He healed a man who was deaf. And right after this part of the story, what does Jesus do? He heals a man who has eyes but cannot see. He heals a man who is blind.
Jesus, in order to illustrate to the disciples the condition of their hearts, performs physical miracles on others which reflect the spiritual miracle that needs to take place in them. He is saying to the disciples: “You are the blind man! You are the deaf man! You do not yet understand because your hearts are blind and deaf!” Perhaps Jesus is telling you the same thing this morning.
In both stories of physical healing you have other people pleading for Jesus to heal these men. You have two men – first a deaf man and later a blind man – who are brought to Jesus by their friends. And they BEG Jesus to heal. Those who are well intercede for the sick men, and bring them where they could not get on their own, and beg Jesus for healing on their behalf. The sick men would not have been able to get there on their own. Perhaps the deaf man could have, but even if he did he would not have been able to speak to tell Jesus what he wanted.
Oh, this is so important. Jesus is not simply telling the disciples that they are deaf and blind. He is telling them that not only are they spiritually crippled and unable to see or hear, but they also are unable to be healed on their own! The two sick men could not find their way to Jesus alone. And the disciples could not find their way to Jesus alone, either! The sick men needed someone to lead them on the physical path to where Jesus was, and the disciples needed someone to lead them on the spiritual path to WHO Jesus was.
And now, to explain that deepest need – to explain who Jesus really is, we come to the outer edges of the passage.
At the beginning, we have a story that seems to be somewhat strange. We have this gentile woman who comes to Jesus and requests a miracle – which Jesus does. However, the focus of this little story is again not on the miracle. The focus is on what Jesus says to this woman, and how the woman responds to Jesus.
So we see the woman begging Jesus to heal her daughter, and after she does so Jesus says something that at first glance seems terribly insulting. She begs Jesus, and Jesus replies: “First let the children eat…for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” Wow. Did Jesus really just refer to her as a dog?
But look at how the woman responds. She’s not offended, because Jesus’ intent was not to insult her. She says, “Yes, Lord – but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
Jesus’ intention was not to insult the woman. Jesus intention was to test her faith by putting to her a statement about His identity. Look at His statement to her. He isn’t simply making an illustration from a common picture of a family. Jesus is speaking biblically here.
He speaks about children because in the Old Testament scriptures God the Father refers to His chosen people of Israel as His children. He speaks about giving bread to them because in the OT scriptures God the Father provided for His children with bread from heaven. So in this statement to the woman Jesus is proclaiming that He is the God of Israel AND He is the bread from heaven, coming down to save His people.
And the woman’s response is “YES, LORD.” This woman recognizes that what Jesus is claiming is true. She takes for granted that He is who He is claiming to be. And she ALSO recognizes that the children of Israel, the people of God, have not fully understood this. “the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” The people of Israel, instead of treasuring Jesus as the precious, glorious, infinitely valuable bread of haven sent for their salvation, are casting him aside like scraps thrown under a table. The Pharisees hate him, the people only like him because he heals the sick and make bread appear out of thin air. And so this woman, realizing who He is, pleads – “Yes Lord…just give me a morsel of your mercy. Just give me a tiny piece of your power. Your people have rejected you, so why not answer the request of the one who does not reject you?”
And Jesus, seeing her great faith, said “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
So we have this gentile woman who recognizes who Jesus is and why He has come before the disciples even recognize and understand fully who Jesus is. But let’s look now at the end of our passage. And what we see happen there is the climax of the first half of the book of Mark. Everything has been leading up to this. This is what Jesus has been laboring towards.
So, after the rebuke in the boat, when Jesus told the disciples that they were blind and then illustrating that fact with the healing of a blind man, they get to where they’re going – and Jesus begins to question them. He begins to press them on the most important issue for their eternity – His identity. “Who do people say I am?” He asked. The generality of the question is intentional. He is again highlighting the blindness of the world He has entered. All sorts of answers are given, all the guesses of people who have seen Jesus’ miracles and heard His preaching. “He’s a preacher! He’s a prophet!”
But then Jesus sweeps that away and lays upon the disciples the crushing weight of this question: “Yes. But who do YOU say that I am?”
My friends, it does not matter what others believe about Jesus. Your eternity is not based on what the preacher believes about Jesus, or what the church down the road believes about Jesus, or what your family believes about Jesus. Your eternity does not rest on who THEY say Jesus is. Jesus asks, “Who do YOU say that I am?”
Jesus asks them this question, and we see one of the most beautiful things in the book of Mark: Peter gets it right! We see this man who was blind and deaf finally understand! We see this disciple who had walked with Jesus and heard everything He said – but up until now He had not understood. Peter had been by Jesus’ side and seen everything He had done – and yet he had not seen the truth about who Jesus was.
But as he looked at Jesus asking this question, Peters eyes were opened and His ears were unstopped, and HE SAW. His deaf heart was healed. His blind soul was given eyes to see who Jesus truly was.
And in a dazzling moment of God-given understanding, Peter proclaimed: “You are the Christ!”
My friends, the great desire of Jesus is that you would KNOW Him for who He is. The reason that He came was so that we might know Him. The reason He did everything He has done in the gospel up until this point is so that we might know Him. The reason that He has recorded it in His Word is so that we might read it and know Him!
And there are so many people in the world, perhaps even some of you here this morning, who are laboring under a spiritual blindness. We have a more full record of Jesus than the disciples had. We can more clearly see who He is, what He has done, and what He will do than anyone in history. But even still, there are so many who fail to recognize Jesus for who He is.
And this is where the important question which Christ posed to the disciples again becomes important. You see, it is easy to repeat what others have said about Jesus. It is easy to let Peter’s words come out of our mouths. But the important question for you is not, “Who did Peter say Jesus was?”
The question Jesus asks you is, “Who do YOU say that I am?”
Oh brothers and sisters, my dear friends, consider carefully! Do not allow your hearts to be deceived! Fight against blindness of soul!
Who do you say Jesus is?
–If all your words about Jesus were examined by an outsider, who would you have said Jesus is?
–If all your thoughts were examined by someone from a non-Christian culture, who would they know Jesus to be?
–If all your actions were gathered up and examined, what would they proclaim about the identity of Jesus?
Do you find satisfaction in Him as the true eternal bread from heaven?
Do you Know Him, love Him, and submit to Him?
Can you see the truth of His glory such that you can’t help but worship Him?
Or do you ask for signs?
If He is not the Christ, then you are free to live your life as you choose.
If He IS the Christ, then nothing and no one could be more important.
If He IS the Christ, then:
–He is the only hope for salvation. No one else could die for sins and make an acceptable offering to God.
–He is the only Hope for satisfaction; there is no other source of eternal joy that will never fade or fail.
–He is the only way to have a relationship with God, and no one will get to the Father except through Him.
–He will rule for all of eternity as the King of the Universe, and recognizing that your souls are eternal as well, this means that you will stand before Him one day. The present body WILL fail, and then you will have eternity to deal with. And, as my brother pastor John Piper says, “You can either stand a face Him on His terms, or face Him on your own.” One means eternal life, the other eternal death. One means eternal joy, the other eternal suffering.
If He IS the Christ, then nothing and no one could be more important.
So, who do YOU say that He is?