Week 42 Devotion
This week we are going to get a clear answer to one of the biggest questions that the gospel writers are trying to answer for us, “Who is Jesus?” Last week, I brought this question up and encourage you to think about it as you read the assigned readings. Did you notice how often this question appeared in the text? This question is one of the key themes in each of the 4 gospel accounts.
As you read through you can see that the people are trying to figure out who He is. The people from his home-town think they know him, after all, they know his parents, but they can’t figure out how He became so wise in the Scriptures. As His ministry grows, the crowds begin to form and they too are asking, “Who is this man?”
The Pharisees and Scribes are intrigued by all that Jesus is doing and they are concerned about all that Jesus is saying. For instance, on several occasions, Jesus heals a person and says this, “Your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees are quick to ask, “Who is this man who claims to forgive sins?”
The disciples are trying to figure this out as well. When they are in the boat with Jesus and the storm is about to claim their lives, they wake Jesus up and ask for help. Jesus sits up and speaks to the wind. He sits up and speaks a command to the storm and both the wind and the waves obey His voice. This was enough to put fear into the disciple’s hearts and cause them to ask, “Who is this man who commands the sea and the wind?”
This week we see that this question has reached all the way to King Herod. He wants to know who Jesus is. This is a pretty impressive progression. From the 1st chapter of Luke to the 9th chapter of Luke, we have seen this question on the lips of Jesus’ family, His neighbors, the crowd of followers, The Pharisees and Scribes, the 12 disciples and now even the king is trying to figure this out.
So it makes sense that at some point Jesus is going to sit down with the disciples to have a discussion about this question. We are going to see that discussion unfold this week.
Something to meditate on…
In Matthew 16, Luke 9, and Mark 8 we see Jesus finally sit down with His disciples to have a discussion about His identity and Jesus poses the question with a kind of, “what’s the word on the street” type of question.
Now, everybody has an opinion about Jesus. From the 1st century until now, people from all walks of life have weighed in to give their opinion about Jesus. And here in our text, we see that Jesus wants to talk about this with His friends. In other words, Jesus cares what you think of Him.
Now, this passage falls on the heels of Jesus feeding the 5000 where the disciples saw first-hand the miracle of Jesus turning a small amount of food into a feast. And you can easily imagine that as the Disciples were walking through the crowd handing out food that they were interacting with the people and this question (Who is Jesus?) was one that the people were talking about.
The question is, “When the people talk about me who do they say that I am?” And we learn that there are three general responses to this question: John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets of old. In other words, the people aren't realy sure who Jesus is, but they have no problem putting Him alongside some pretty heavy hitters.
Their responses indicate that they see Jesus as a major prophetic eschatological (end times) figure, but there is no mention of the possibility that He is the Messiah and there is really no clue that He is the Son of God. Like many people today, they know that Jesus is important but they are blind or unclear to the reality of who He is.
But Jesus wants to bring the question closer to home when He asks, “But who do you say that I am?” The “You” here is emphatic, which indicates a contrast between the crowd’s opinion and the disciples’ opinion. “Now that we’ve discussed what they think, I want to know what you think. Who do you say that I am?” And Peter steps forward as the spokesman for the group saying, “You are the Christ of God.”
One of the marks of discipleship (saving faith) is that despite what people may say about Jesus, we understand that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He is not just one man in a long list of potential ways to God. He is the long promised and long-awaited savior of God’s people, the only one who can bring peace between God and man. Jesus is the most important man in the history of the world. As Christians, we know and trust that Jesus is the promised One; that He is not simply a messenger, but the message.
Here are a few questions for you to answer: How did Peter come to understand Jesus’ true identity? What are the disciples supposed to do with this knowledge? If Jesus is the Messiah, what should we expect to see take place in His life?
All of these questions can be answered as you look at this passage in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
Something to discuss…
Early on in Jesus’ ministry, we read about the huge crowds that followed him around. But by the end of His ministry, we see that the crowd has dwindled down to just over 100. So what happened? John 6 helps us to answer this question.
In the beginning of the chapter, the crowds have gathered because “They saw the signs that He was doing on the sick (v. 2).” Then in verse 14, they recognized that Jesus had performed a miracle, a sign, by feeding 5,000 with just a small amount of food. That night, Jesus left the crowd and sailed to the other side of the sea but by morning they were tracking Him down. They caught up with Jesus and a conversation ensues.
They seem to be upset that Jesus left them but He replies, “You didn’t come looking for me because of the signs that you saw me perform. You came here for food. But you need to seek the food that will give you eternal life.” This statement might be a bit hard for us to understand but I don’t think the crowds would have the same problem. They recognize that Jesus is making a reference to Moses and the Israelites.
When God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt, it was Moses who led them through the wilderness. When they became hungry it was Moses who asked God to feed them. In a sense, it was Moses who gave them bread from Heaven. The crowds see Jesus as a Moses type figure who will lead the people and feed the people. So this crowd has come for more bread.
But the problem with this metaphor is that Jesus is not just Moses, He is the Bread. Like the manna in the wilderness, Jesus has come down from Heaven. Like the manna in the wilderness, Jesus was sent by the Father to satisfy the needs of His people. Like the manna in the wilderness, the people must feast on Jesus and satisfy the need of their souls with Him alone.
This is too much. If Jesus had simply kept feeding them they would have been happy. In fact, they would have made Him their King. But He didn’t just come to feed their bellies, He came to feed their souls. He came to die as their Passover lamb. He came to cover them with His blood that would atone for their sins. They wanted food and He gave them the truth. They wanted bread and He gave them His own life.
So many of them left and stopped following Jesus on that day. The crowd of thousands broke up and became a group of just over 100.
How does this chapter help us understand the fickle crowds in churches today? What can we learn from John 6 that will help us to understand what we often see in the evangelical world today? Why do people flock to Jesus in such large numbers? Why is it that only a small fraction of those people continues to follow Jesus throughout their lives? What would God have us think and do to protect our own hearts from the temptation to wander away?
Something to pray about…
Mark 9:24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief.”
What a painfully honest prayer. In Mark 9 we meet a man whose son is demon possessed and this father wants nothing more than for his son to be healed. The disciples have tried but they were unable to help the boy and now Jesus has joined the group. He was up on the mountain with the 3 for what we call the transfiguration, but He’s back and when Jesus realizes the situation He rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith.
The father explains to Jesus the desperate nature of his son’s condition and then asks Jesus to have compassion on them. But here in verse 24 you see the desperation in the father. He is so desirous for his son to be healed that he cries out. He can’t be civil any longer. He needs help and he wants it from Jesus.
He believes that Jesus can heal his son, but he knows that his faith is weak. This is an acknowledgment that though faith is present in us we still need God’s help. It is an acknowledgment that without God’s sustaining grace we cannot believe as we ought to believe.
So let’s make this our prayer for the week that God would strengthen our faith. Let’s pray for God to deepen our faith, to sustain our faith, and allow His power to be seen in our life each day.