Friday, February 4, 2011

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 6, 2011

(Who do you say that HE is?)
(Mark 8:27-9:10)

In Mark chapter 8, verses 27-30 John Mark relates the account of JESUS’ 25-mile walk with HIS disciples from Galilee to Caesarea-Philippi. We soon see that it is no accident that JESUS chose this particular time and area to pose the question to HIS faithful followers, “Who do men say that I AM?, and subsequently, Who do y-o-u say that I AM?
In JESUS’ day, Caesarea-Philippi had already long been known as a “mecca” for idol worship. There were no less than fourteen temples of idol worship in the immediate vicinity where they now stood. First of all, the Syrian gods had their worship center there. There was a mountain in Caesarea-Philippi which contained a deep cavern that was said to be the birthplace of “Pan”, the “Greek god of nature”. In fact, Pan is the source of Caesarea-Philippi’s original name, “Paneas”, which was changed to Caesarea-Philippi by Philip the Tetrarch, one of the sons of Herod the Great, in honor of Caesar Augustus.
Herod the Great had also constructed a huge white marble tower, which was the most imposing edifice in all of Caesarea-Philippi in those days, and had also dedicated it to Caesar, who, himself, was also considered by the Romans to be a god.
Caesarea-Philippi is also the place where the Jordan River begins. We all know the Jordan River as the place where John the Baptist did most of his baptizing. In fact, he even baptized JESUS there at the beginning of HIS three-year earthly ministry.
And so, it is against this very backdrop of Greek and Syrian gods, this place where a piece of the history of Israel also crowds men’s minds, that we see this former carpenter from Nazareth stand and pose the question to HIS young disciples, “Who do men say that I AM?”
It seems as if JESUS has intentionally and deliberately set HIMSELF against this background of the world’s religions, in all of their history and splendor, demands to be compared to them, and then, fully expects the verdict to be rendered in HIS favor! Nowhere else in scripture does JESUS call attention more clearly to HIS OWN deity, than what we see right here, in this passage.
In the biblical Greek, the word used for “affirmation” is “bebaiosis” (beb-ah-yo-sis), and it means “to be steadfast and sure in one’s assertions”. When Peter pondered this question from JESUS he already knew that most human categories would fail to describe just who JESUS was. This passage of scripture serves to show us that our discovery of JESUS must be a personal one. Remember, JESUS also asked the question, “Who do you say that I AM”? This question hints that our knowledge of JESUS must never be “secondhand”. Christianity does not consist of knowing about JESUS, but rather, it consists of knowing JESUS. JESUS always demands a personal verdict. When JESUS asked this question HE was not just asking it to HIS original disciples, but rather, it is also a question that comes to us, from across the spans of time, in hopes that we too, can answer it favorably.
JESUS’ “Transfiguration” (Mark 9:1-10), which in all geographical likelihood, occurred on Mount Hermon, nearly 2000 years ago, was intended by GOD, to place “affirmation” of JESUS’ majesty upon the hearts of men, for all time. GOD spoke from the clouds that day to Peter, James, and John, to forever affirm to them, that JESUS truly is HIS only begotten SON. And HE used the images of Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophet, two towering figures in Jewish history, each of whom, no man had seen die, and they were there to bear witness, and to add a touch of affirmation to this divine event. And as for Peter, James, and John, they, in a very special sense, had themselves, become witnesses to the Glory of CHRIST. And now, they had the story of that Glory embedded in their hearts, so that they may go out and tell all mankind that JESUS truly is the SON of the LIVING GOD.
We today, may never be able to witness an event such as the one that occurred on that mountaintop overlooking Caesarea-Philippi that day, but certainly, we can all follow the instructions of JESUS, as they were laid down to Peter over in John 21. There, JESUS posed yet another question to HIS leading disciple, following HIS all important “Resurrection”. And on that occasion HE asked Peter, three times, “Do you love ME” (John 21:15-17). If we love JESUS, each of us can help someone else guard against going astray. And, if we love JESUS, each of us can also love one another. And, if we love JESUS, each of us can feed JESUS’ sheep (each other), with the nourishing spiritual food, that is, the “Word of GOD”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

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