Who Is This Man?
December 16, 2018 | Randy Smith
Who Is This Man?
Sunday, December 16, 2018
Pastor Randy Smith
Verse 14 says there were “about” 5,000 men. Conservative estimates put the over crowd over 15,000 people.
<>Jesus was at the height of His popularity.
Last week we learned that Jesus is beginning to use His disciples more, giving them additional responsibility in preparation for His departure. The sun was setting on the day. The people were hungry. They asked Jesus to send the crowd away so they may find something to eat. Jesus turns it back on the disciples. In verse 13 He said, “You give them something to eat.”
Possessing only five loaves and two fish (verse 13); nothing short of a miracle from God would satisfy these people. Will the disciples trust Jesus for the ability to do what He commands? A lesson they needed to learn and one, quite frankly, a lesson we need to learn as well.
Verse 17, “And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full.”
In terms of visible results this is one of the largest miracles our Lord ever performed. It demonstrated His compassion for the people. Mark’s Gospel says, “He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” But Mark also adds, “He began to teach them many things” (Mk. 6:34). Yes, His primary goal, as we have been learning, was to teach who God is and proclaim salvation in His name. He did that through His words. Repeatedly the Bible says the crowds were amazed at His teaching.
And He did that through His miracles. His miracles were primarily an object lesson. Take this miracle for example. Everybody there was familiar with God feeding the Israelites in the desert. God is again feeding in Jesus Christ. Jesus is now God’s new prophet, greater than Moses. But more than that as He will teach them (recorded in John’s Gospel in relation to this miracle) that He Himself is the “Bread of Life.” He said, “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (Jn. 6:49-51).
In Mark’s Gospel at this time we read, “Many listeners were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us? (Mk. 6:2-3; cf. Jn. 6:42).
The thought buzzing around the country was: Who is this Man? 7:49, “Who is this man who even forgives sin?” Last week we (9:9) we saw Herod say, “Who is this man about whom I hear such things?” Even the Disciples themselves asked the question in 8:25. “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?”
That leads us to verse 18 of chapter 9. Jesus will now ask His disciples the very question that has been going around. Here’s how He begins it in verse 18.
First it’s orientated toward popular opinion. “And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, ‘Who do the people say that I am?’” In other words, as it pertains to My identity, what is the word on the street? What are you guys hearing about Me? Who do the people say that I am?
Interestingly they say, verse 19, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” I say interesting, but that’s the same report that made it back to Herod. Remember last week, verses 7 and 8? “It was said by some that John had risen from the dead, and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen again.”
It’s weird because there is such consistency in thought. It’s strange to have a settled opinion on something so big. Based on the responses, they all concluded that He was real and there was something “God” about Him. There is no record of anyone saying, “He’s a great magician or false prophet.” It’s only the Pharisees that would later say (Luke 11) that He is empowered by Satan.
It’s also weird, especially for us who have gone through the first 8 chapters of Luke, that there was still so much confusion now some two-and-a-half years into Jesus’ ministry. It’s not like Jesus’ true identity has been hidden under a basket.
Regarding Mary, 1:32, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High ; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” 1:35, “The holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” Mary herself, 1:47, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”
The angel, 2:11, “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
The demons, 4:41, “You are the Son of God!” 8:26, “Jesus, Son of the Most High God.”
Jesus Himself, 5:24, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
And so many other personal testimonies, not to mention the teaching, fulfilled prophecies, signs and miracles. Why did the people miss it? We will come back to that.
Now Jesus shifts it to the disciple’s personal thoughts. In other words, So that is what the people are saying, verse 20, “But who do you say that I am?” This is the question every human being on the planet must face. Who do you say Jesus is?
Let me give you another National Park illustration. I know four Presidents are carved in granite on Mount Rushmore National Memorial, but if you are looking for one face to be the hero of the National Park System, without a doubt it would be John Muir. I’ll spare you the details, but how this guy traveled to these remote places in the early 1900’s and what this guy did to preserve the most beautiful places in America is amazing. Everywhere I go, everybody loves John Muir and everyone wants to claim him as their own.
I enjoy John Muir’s writings. “This is creation. All that is going on today, only men are blind to see it...They cannot pause long enough to go out into the wilderness where God has provided every sparrow enough to eat and to spare, and contemplate for even an hour the wonderful world that they live in. You say that what I write may bring this beauty to the hearts of those that do not get out to see it...The good Lord put those things here as a free gift that he who chooses may take with joy — and he who will not walk out of the smoke of the cities to see them has no right to them” (John Muir, “Three Days with John Muir,” The World's Work, 1909).
“Come, mother! Come, bairns [children]! And see the glory of God. Hush and wonder and adore, for surely this is the clothing of the Lord Himself.” “Everything” in nature, John wrote years later, “is perfectly clean and pure and full of divine lessons.”
I was reading biographies that made claims on John Muir’s identity. One insisted that Muir was a Buddhist because it was supposed that no Christian could have that kind of love for creation and its preservation. Everyone knows John Muir. Everyone loves John Muir. Everyone wants to squeeze him to their camp. Why? Because if John Muir believes what I believe, it validates my beliefs.
So how can we discover the real John Muir? We can observe his life and talk with him (which won’t happen because he lived from 1838-1914) or we can read the writings He left behind.
Why am I sharing this? Because Jesus Christ is the most influential figure that ever walked on the planet. You see, I will get affirmation for my beliefs if I can construct the life and ministry of Jesus around my convictions. In other words, I can make Him to be who I want Him to be for my validation. You’ve heard them all: Jesus is one of many moral teachers or religious figures or philosophers. He was an activist, political revolutionary, prophet, ppassivist. Some theories are absolutely bizarre from an alien to time traveler to a Buddhist. Some have advocated that He is whoever you want Him to be. You’ve heard about the many quests to search for the “historical Jesus.” All of this is the world’s attempt to answer the all-important question, “Who is Jesus.”
If you want to learn about John Muir, read the work he left behind. If you want to learn about Jesus Christ, read the work he left behind, specifically the four Gospels from the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) that are proven to be historically reliable. Read what He said and answer the question for yourself.
And it’s a question you cannot easily dismiss. It’s a question you had better not get wrong. It’s a question where heaven and hell hang in the balance. There is no neutrality permitted since He claimed to be God and the only way to heaven. Jesus asked His disciples the question that He asks all of creation. Based on the evidence, verse 20, “Who do you say that I am?”
Verse 20, there was only one conclusion, “And Peter answered and said, ‘The Christ of God.’” Matthew records his full answer. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16). You are the Christ, “Christos” in the Greek meaning, “anointed one.” In the Hebrew it means “Messiah.”
Great job, Peter, but why didn’t all the people with Jesus confess this? Over 15,000 people just witnessed and benefitted from Jesus’ largest miracle, they heard His teaching and within the span of 6-8 months would demand His crucifixion. Why?
The answer is the same today and it goes back to those three enemies I like to point out.
First is the flesh. We could say our inherent sinful nature. The human heart naturally gravitates to sin. It loves sin and biblically speaking is a slave to sin and is spiritually dead. People will therefore find every excuse to redefine or dismiss Jesus simply because He calls them to holiness and they refuse to depart from their sin. They love their sin more than they love Jesus.
Second is the world. The world is the system of every age, the philosophy that opposes the things of God. The world is forever brainwashing, seeking to squeeze people into their mold. If the Bible calls for something, most often the world will be against it. The world will persecute people that oppose it. Nobody opposes it more than Jesus. Back then confessing Jesus would put you out of the synagogue. Now confessing Jesus will put you out of the good graces of politics, Hollywood, the press, academia and personal acquaintances.
And third is the devil. We learned in chapter 8 how he makes it his ambition to take God’s word away from ever heart that hears it. 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
These are the three reasons why most people reject Jesus and this is why I am convinced that if you come to Jesus it is a work that He must do in your heart.
For example, in the context of feeding the 5,000, Jesus told the people what He expected of them and the text says, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore” (Jn. 6:66). There is just too much to keep us from loving Jesus. No wonder Jesus said in John 6, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (Jn. 6:44). And no wonder when Peter confessed Jesus in the Matthew account that Jesus immediately said, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona , because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17).
Luke 7:21, “But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone.” And then verse 22, the first of four passion predictions in Luke (9:44; 17:25; 18:31-32), “Saying, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.’”
Our Lord’s placement of these powerful words in proximity to Peter’s confession makes it unmistakably clear as to His primary mission. The culture at that time was buzzing with all their messianic expectations, most revolving around someone that would overthrow the Roman leadership, exalt the Jewish nation and bring God’s kingdom immediately to earth. In one sweeping blow Jesus basically says, So you say I am the Messiah. That’s correct. And here is what the Messiah has come to do. I’ll be rejected by the Jewish religious establishment you thought would support me and killed by the Romans who you thought I would defeat. It was the very opposite of what the people expected. What a blow to their hopes of the Messiah. First, don’t tell anyone and second, I am going to die. But it ends with six words of great hope. “Raised up on the third day.” We’ll have more on that in the sermons to come.
Did Peter now “get it?” Well, according to Matthew’s account Peter heard these words and “took [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’” But [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s’” (Matt. 16:22-23).
So we end with this one simple, yet profound question: To you, who is Jesus Christ? Your true answer will always be seen in your actions.