Who was Jesus?

It is hard for us, living in the age of technology, to relate to those in the past who did not have access to the instant information that we have. What would it have been like if it had taken weeks or even months to learn about 9/11? What if presidential results weren’t known for weeks and as far as listening to and analyzing the candidates debates, that would only be possible if you happened to be in town for the debate.

Think about what it was like in the first century – no radio, TV or Internet, so there was no way to get instant news. There were no newspapers, so you couldn’t even read about anything that happened locally let alone far away. Add to this that the Jews didn’t even draw portraits of people – so although you might hear about someone you would not know what they looked like unless you met them personally or heard them speaking at a public event.

This was the world Jesus came into. When he began to preach, heal the sick, cast out demons, and even occasionally raising the dead, people began to notice. As people observed Jesus doing these things, they would have told others who would have told others.

Again – no telephones or instant messaging, so they would have to tell others person to person, perhaps as they were in markets, or visiting relatives, or perhaps while they were travelling to Jerusalem for one of the feasts. They might want to see Jesus, but they wouldn’t know what he looked like. They would have to ask where people saw him last and try to track him down. Over a period of time, Jesus became a first-century celebrity.

When Jesus was travelling to the villages of Caesarea Phillippi, he asked his disciples, “‘Who do people say that I am?’ They said, ‘John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ.’ Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him” (Mark 8:27-30).

Because they spent time with Jesus, observing what he was doing, Peter and the apostles had arrived at the correct conclusion: Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. Even though they had arrived at the correct conclusion, they really did not understand what it meant to be the Messiah.

It seems that immediately, or at least very soon after this conclusion was stated, Jesus began to explain what being the Messiah meant:

“Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke openly about this. So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But after turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan. You are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s’” (Mark 8:31-33).

Although he realized who Jesus was, Peter did not understand who the Messiah was.

Jesus went on to explain what it meant to be his follower: “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34-35).

If we want to follow Jesus, if we acknowledge him as Messiah, we must follow him wherever that may take us – even if we have to die for believing in him.

Readings for next week:
18 April – Mark 9:33-50
19 April – Mark 10:1-31
20 April – Mark 10:32-52
21 April – Mark 11
22 April – Mark 12

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