Have you ever been in a crowded room, surrounded by many faces you know and some you do not, and spot someone you are not sure you recognize? Perhaps it is a face from your past, maybe a well-to-do person in your community, or perhaps even a Hollywood celebrity. But you’re not just sure of the identity of the individual.
To somebody, this person could be their spouse. To another, perhaps their brother or sister. Yet again, this person could be someone’s co-worker, maybe even their parent. However, in this setting, none of these relationships apply to you and this mystery person sharing the crowded space with you. How would you solve your curiosity?
In the Book of Mark, Jesus with His disciples is traveling to the town of Caesarea Philippi. No doubt many have taken notice of Him from His teachings and miracles. The onlookers have been gazing upon Jesus from both near and from the edges, pondering about the words and works He has been sharing and performing. The onlookers have never seen a man like Him before. Some in the crowds probably knew Him from His childhood days, perhaps they even knew His mother, Mary, and His dad, Joseph. Yet they were not certain if whom they were seeing was in fact … who they were seeing.
Jesus was aware of this. So as He walked with His disciples, he posed the question, “Who do men say that I am?” The answers ranged between Him being John the Baptist, Elijah and even one of the many prophets. Obviously, there was a wide range of varying opinions regarding the true identity of this interesting stranger who walked among the people. Jesus presented this question to His disciples as an opening to a very important teaching moment. It’s one we should consider as well. Upon hearing the responses from His disciples concerning the many offerings of who the people said He was, Jesus turned the tables on the disciples and asked them the same question, just slightly more pointed: “BUT who do YOU say that I am?”
Did you pay attention to that question? If not, go back and re-read it. It is probably one of the most important questions Jesus ever asked anyone. Our response to this question is very telling. The answer every person gives to this question will determine his or her eternal destiny. John the Baptist was a great man, one who is titled the fore-runner for Christ. Elijah much the same. The prophets all spoke of the Kingdom of God and the embrace God held for His people. Yet all of these held one thing in common: regarding the gift of receiving salvation, each of these fell short, unable to make the way to eternity acceptable by God.
Very often we too fall into the trap of idol worship, placing someone in a position of opinion they are not worthy to hold. How many of us look upon the words and life of Christian soldiers such as Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, John McArthur, C.S. Lewis, Adrian Rogers and the like and in our minds subconsciously say to ourselves, “If I could only be like them, have their faith, be looked upon as they are." Could we possibly be looking for Jesus in the wrong place? Could we be basing our salvation on the people who know Him, while we only know of Him?
Jesus asked His disciples that question not because He was looking to be edified at the mystery of His presence among the crowds, clamoring to see this great teacher. Jesus was well aware of who He was. His question was designed to cause the very ones who walked with Him, who worked alongside of Him, who had fellowship with Him, who watched His every miracle, who heard His every Word of truth, to simply ask themselves a tough question: “Who do YOU say that I am?”
What’s your answer?