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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood


Opinions of Jesus

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” (Mark 8:27,28, NIV)

We are now at the turning point in Jesus’ ministry. More than two years earlier Jesus selected the Twelve to follow Him closely. They were eyewitnesses to His words, works and personal presence. If Jesus’ mission was to succeed, then everything depended on whether they now saw Him for who He truly was.

So Jesus takes them away from the Galilean crowds that adored and followed Him. He heads up to an area we now know as the Golan Heights. In the foothills of Mount Hermon — in the villages of Caesarea Philippi with their pagan populations and temple — He begins the all-important assessment regarding His identity.

Jesus inches into the discussion by asking, “Who do people say that I am?” This does not mean He was unaware of public opinion. He certainly knew what others were saying about Him, and He knew that opinions were divided. He also knew the general population had not assessed Him as the Messiah — and that, indeed, is confirmed by the disciples’ answer.

However, Jesus wants to engage the disciples in a conversation of discovery; so He approaches the subject of His identity from a more oblique angle. Isn’t that also how He works with many of us? There are some who have an instant blinding light conversion experience as Saul of Tarsus, but for most of us there is a process in coming to Christ — as though we were watching the sun slowly rise until the light of the gospel shines full in our opened eyes.

So rather than immediately saying to the Twelve, “Who do you say that I am,” He begins by lubricating their thought processes. He forces them to consider others’ assessment of Him.

When Jesus asks this question also of us, He knows what people are saying of Him. For some people today, Jesus is a legend. For others, He is a liar. A handful may even see Him as a lunatic. A vast number place Him in the pantheon of other religious figures, shrug their shoulders and say dismissively, “Who’s right?” Jesus’ goal is to move us from all those positions toward affirming His true identity as Lord.

The disciples’ response tells us that, while Jesus was highly regarded in public opinion, the people did not see Him as the Messiah.

When Jesus is called “John the Baptist” or “Elijah,” that does not mean the masses of Jewish people believed that Jesus was a reincarnated John or a translated Elijah come back to earth. Their perspective was that Jesus was John-like or Elijah-like — a preparer for One who would come after Jesus.

John the Baptist had come as the Elijah promised in Malachi 4:5, but in the popular opinion Jesus had now succeeded to that role of Way Preparer.

In the parallel account in Matthew (16:14), one other possibility named by the people is Jeremiah. The linkage of Jesus with Jeremiah might accord with the idea of some that God’s people now faced judgment from the foreign power of Rome just as Jeremiah had seen Babylon as God’s visitation of judgment; or that Jesus’ ministry — like Jeremiah’s — was one of tears (Hebrews 5:7).

Do you know what the people around you are saying about Jesus, and how are you helping them to know who He truly is?

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, help me today to influence others to see You for who You truly are.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

On Your Mark

Previous Years

2013 On Your Mark

2012 On Your Mark

2011 On Your Mark

2010 On Your Mark

2009 On Your Mark

2008 On Your Mark

Podcasts of On Your Mark are available in video and audio.
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