The most important result that can come from you reading this sermon recap is not that you are impressed by my writing, or that you are entertained, or even that you are helped in regard to some practical issue in your life. The most important result is that you might understand and receive Jesus as the Christ.
Mark 8 is a turning point in Mark’s gospel, and verse 29 is the hinge. “And [Jesus] asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ.'” Immediately after Peter correctly identifies him as the Christ, Jesus begins teaching for the first time about his ensuing death and resurrection.
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. (Mark 8:31)
What Does it Mean that Jesus is the Christ?
‘Christ’ is a title, meaning ‘anointed one’ or ‘messiah’. It describes Jesus’ function and position, just like the word ‘Pastor’ in “Pastor Matt.” It’s interesting to note that often Paul refers to him as “Christ Jesus” rather than “Jesus Christ.” Many believe this is because he knew him first as Christ, and only later more personally as Jesus; whereas the other apostles knew him first as Jesus, and only later more deeply as Christ. Knowing Jesus as Christ is knowing Jesus in his function and position as the anointed Messiah.
When Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ in Mark 8:29, it was from a Jewish worldview, carrying the full weight of over 300 prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures. To the disciples, who were all Jewish, saying that Jesus is the Christ meant that Jesus is the long awaited initiator of God’s righteous rule in the world. It meant that Jesus is the Deliverer from sin’s power and penalty.
With the benefit of God’s complete revelation in the Bible, we know that the Christ is the rescuing King of kings who died for our sins, arose from the dead, ascended into heaven and will return to fully establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
It is Possible to be Near Jesus and Not Understand that He is the Christ
The disciples had been physically near Jesus, witnessing his authoritative teaching and miraculous ministry. Yet, they still did not understand him as the Christ in verses 14-21. Just after Jesus fed thousands with a little bit of bread (again), the disciples realized they had forgotten to bring any of it with them in the boat. Upon hearing their concerned conversation, Jesus blasts them with repeated rhetorical questions.
And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? (Mark 8:17-18)
Proximity to Jesus does not equate understanding Jesus as the Christ. Many understand him merely as a great teacher, moral example, lucky rabbit’s foot, historical hero, religious mascot or vague inspirational figure. This leaves them learning from him, emulating him, cherishing him, celebrating him and putting him on a pedestal–but not entrusting their lives to him in total comprehensive allegiance as the Christ.
I know my doctor as Dr. Elkins, relating to him in his medical function and position. As such I enjoy the medical benefits of having him as my doctor. However, if I only knew him as a neighbor, I would not enjoy those benefits. He would be the same man, but until I came to know him in his function and position as Doctor, I would not know him in a medically beneficial way. Likewise with Jesus. Until we come to know him in his function and position as Christ, we do now know him in a redeeming, re-creating, reconciling way.
Not Understanding Jesus as the Christ Leaves us Preoccupied with the Things of this World
What triggered Jesus’ questions in verses 17 and 18? The disciples’ preoccupation with physical bread in verses 16-17:
They began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand?
Until we come to understand Jesus as the Christ, our vision is limited to the things of this world. For the disciples, it meant that the miraculous feeding of thousands was about mere bread, not about the Bread of Life (John 6:34-35). For us it could mean that sermons are only performances to be critiqued, not the proclamation of God’s word to be received. Bodies are only for pleasure and comfort, not living sacrifices unto God (Romans 12). Church is only a weekly obligation, not the body of Christ (Ephesians 5). Marriage is just a happiness contract, not a living gospel presentation (Ephesians 5). Money is for accumulating treasure on earth, not treasure in heaven (Matthew 6). Until we understand that Jesus is the Christ, we will live our lives seeking the very same things the world seeks, rather than the Kingdom of God. As a result, our souls remain parched and shriveled by sin and selfishness and our religion remains empty.
Understanding Jesus as the Christ
God created humans to worship, honor and enjoy relationship with him. But sin doomed all of humanity into alienation from God and one another. We were meant to live out-flowing lives of worship and love, but are cursed with inherent inwardness, worshiping and serving ourselves.
But God, rich in mercy and grace, sent his Son Jesus Christ to die for the penalty of our sins so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to him. Embracing Jesus as the Christ is receiving this forgiveness and renewed relationship with God. Doing so unfurls our inward tangles of idolatry and selfishness, freeing us to worship God and love people according to our original design.
It is good news that God did not send us a mere man to admire, a mere teacher from whom to learn, a mere example to emulate. He sent us the Christ, bearing salvation as a gift. Go to him and receive salvation today. As Jesus says in Mark 8:34, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
- Take some time to catch up and pray together.
- Brainstorm a list of possible benefits of church involvement apart from knowing Jesus as the Christ. (For example, one can gain helpful life lessons and good friendships in church without knowing Jesus as the Christ.)
- Read Mark 8:14-21. Why did the disciples’ concern about bread seem to frustrate Jesus?
- Read Mark 8:27-30. What does it mean that Jesus is the Christ? What other scriptures can help shed light on this? (Some helpful passages to start with: Mark 14:53-65; John 11:17-27; 20:30-31.)
- What does it mean or look like to receive Jesus as the Christ? What other scriptures can help broaden our understanding here? (For example, see Galatians 2:17-21; Ephesians 1:3-14; 1 Peter 1:3-21).
- What are your key takeaways from the scriptures you’ve discussed tonight? How will they effect your life moving forward?
- Pray over these things together.