Then Jesus and His disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way, He questioned His disciples: "Who do people say I am?"
ibid., p. 585). It was a region where the utmost seclusion could be enjoyed, pending the great things which were to take place in the near future. Immediately behind the disciples were the great works which had occasioned such universal wonder and speculation concerning their Master; and they were in a position of comparative leisure and quietude duly to recall and meditate upon them. No better opportunity had hitherto presented itself for the crowning question of Jesus," Whom say ye that l am? "
I. THE IDENTIFICATION WAS DISTINGUISHED FROM SEVERAL ALREADY CURRENT. So marvellous was the career of Jesus, that all ideas of explaining on ordinary grounds had to be abandoned. In the popular mind the only personages corresponding to Jesus, save John the Baptist, were those of ancient Jewish history, the heroic ages of the theocracy. All were agreed that in him there was a revival or reappearance of the religious spirit of the best days of Israel.
1. The knowledge of these opinions rendered the judgment of the disciples highly conscious and deliberate, and therefore of great critical importance. Each of them, as it came to their ears, would doubtlessly be considered and weighed. The popular guesses would be compared with the full and complete experience of Jesus and his work, which they alone possessed, and one by one rejected. But they would serve to awaken their critical attention and their spiritual discernment - constitute, in fact, a sort of ascending scale according to which to adjust their own thoughts.
2. The certainty to which they had arrived, notwithstanding the variety of opinions of which they were aware, proves how overwhelming the evidence must have been upon which they based their conclusion. There is no hesitation in Peter's answer. And as spokesman of the twelve he utters their unanimous conviction. How much previous examination and interchange of views does that imply?
II. How was THIS CONCLUSION ARRIVED AT?
1. Not from unscientific guessing. From their peculiar circumstances this was impossible.
2. Not from information furnished by Jesus himself. There is no trace of hinting or suggesting on the part of the Master. His withdrawal from that course of policy which might have enabled him to take advantage of popular influence was against the idea of his being the Messiah of the people's dreams. It was in spite of his mysterious behavior, therefore, and in complete absence of any information furnished by himself, that they formed their opinion.
3. It was by a twofold process, viz.:
(1) Induction from their experience of his character and works. For this they were peculiarly fitted; and the searching training of the Master led them gradually but surely to make it. And they were well versed in Scripture.
(2) Inspiration of God. Elsewhere (Matthew 16:17) we read the declaration, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." These two sources of information were not mutually exclusive, but mutually supplementary and confirmatory, as in every Christian mind to-day. Indeed, in a larger view of evidence the spiritual intuition - the most truly moral evidence of the conscience - is but an element of the general moral evidence upon which the induction is based. It is the conscience which is the ultimate judge of all spiritual questions the ordinary understanding cannot completely or satisfactorily settle.
III. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ITS ATTAINMENT.
1. It was but a recognition of certain correspondences between Jesus and the Messiah spoken of in Scripture. There was certainty and intelligent perception, so far as their knowledge went. But the full conception of his personality and work was reserved for the future. They knew that it was he of whom the prophets spoke, but about himself in his deeper nature and the spirituality, etc., of his work - in short, of what he was - they were not fully aware.
2. What they did arrive at altered their entire relation to him. A new, vague authority attached henceforth to him, and the future was full of a keen expectancy and interest. It gave a new meaning to every word and action proceeding from him, and prepared them for the special training and teaching which they had to receive as his apostles; just as the principle attained by induction of many facts, when its light is turned back upon them interprets them, and we see them as we could not before. - M.
Whom do men say that I am?I. JESUS CHRIST THE SUBJECT OF UNIVERSAL INQUIRY. He appeals to all men.
1. By the variety of His works.
2. By the vitality of His teaching.
3. As the "Son of Man."
II. JESUS CHRIST DEMANDING SPECIAL TESTIMONY. His followers are called —
1. To knowledge.
2. To profession.
3. To individuality of testimony.
III. JESUS CHRIST IS REVEALED BY HIS WORKS RATHER THAN BY VERBAL PROFESSION.
(Dr. Parker.)I. CHRIST PUT TO THE DISCIPLES THEMSELVES THE QUESTION, "Whom say ye that I am?"
1. Christ would turn their thoughts from others to themselves.
2. He does not take for granted that because they externally follow Him, they know Him.
3. He examines them on the most important of all points.
4. He examines them through themselves.
5. He leads them to make a confession of their faith.
6. He puts them in a different class from the multitude.
II. TO THIS QUESTION, PETER REPLIED FOR ALL THE DISCIPLES. Their answer was —
1. Prompt. They had been convinced of His Messiahship.
2. Unanimous. The creed was very short — of one article, all held it.
4. The result of Divine teaching.
5. On this answer the Church was to be built.
III. CHRIST PROHIBITS THEM FROM PUBLISHING WHAT THEY KNEW OF HIM, IN PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. He would deal with them Himself.
2. The proof of His Messiahship was not complete.
3. The Jews were not prepared.
4. The apostles were not qualified.
I. THE OPINIONS THAT MEN ENTERTAINED RESPECTING CHRIST WERE OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE.
1. According to these, they would act, and be dealt with, in this the day of their visitation.
2. Without a knowledge of Christ they could not rely on Him for their own personal salvation.
3. Their opinions respecting Christ indicated their own true state and character. What think ye of Christ?
II. CHRIST WAS CONCERNED FOR THE OPINIONS OF MEN RESPECTING HIMSELF.
1. Having sown, He now looks for the fruit.
2. If He has not been a "savour of life unto life," He has been a "savour of death unto death."
3. He has shown us that we should Hot be indifferent as to human opinion respecting ourselves.
III. CHRIST HELD MEN RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OPINIONS RESPECTING HIM. As man's judge, He deals with their belief.
IV. CHRIST APPLIES TO HIS DISCIPLES FOR AN ACCOUNT OF THE OPINIONS WHICH MEN HAD OF HIM.
1. Not because He was ignorant, etc.
2. But He taught the apostles that it was part of their duty to mark the state of their fellow men.
3. We ought to look on the things of others, and especially their eternal interests.
I. Such knowledge of Christ as the true Messiah CANNOT BE COMMUNICATED BY MAN TO MAN. We may have an acquaintance with ancient records of kingdoms and states that have passed away; we may acquire an intimate acquaintance with warriors, and heroes, and statesmen, and early monarchs, and yet be utterly uninfluenced and unaffected by what we learn; we may read of much. that is heroic, and noble, and heart-stirring, in the achievements of many masterminds of days that are gone by, and only have our minds influenced, as by a bright and glowing dream. And so may it be with the Scripture records. We may be delighted, not only with the detail of ancient history, as recorded in the Bible, but we may be touched with the poetry and the pathos with which the Bible abounds, and we may acquire such an appetite for the Bible, in that sense, as shall induce us to come to it, as affording the most pleasant, and delightful, and intellectual study, and yet be unacquainted with Jesus, the Son of Man and the Son of God, and the one Mediator between our sinful souls and God; and instances are to be found, and ever have been, in which the mind has been stored with the truth, and the heart untouched by it. It is because we have reason to fear that this is too common, that we press upon you the fact that a merely intellectual acquaintance with the Bible is not such an acquaintance with Christ as will meet the necessity of your case. A speculative knowledge of Christ may be acquired by the exercise of the natural faculties; systems of theology may be conceived, magnificent and striking views may be obtained; and yet the heart of a man, as a sinner, may be altogether unmoved. He may contemplate the wondrous plan of redemption, as centred in Christ, and as achieved by Christ, "in the fulness of time": but he may never feel the want of redemption. He may read, and be assured of the fact, that "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life," and yet never be in fear of perishing for want of Christ. He may read, and be well assured of the fact, that "God hath given to us eternal life, and that this life is in His Son"; he may go on, and read the next verse, in which it is affirmed, "He that hath the Son hath life, but he that hath not the Son hath not life," and set remain destitute of the "life," which God has given in Christ, because he as yet knows not that he is "dead in trespasses and sins." He may know, and be ready to declare, without fearing contradiction, that Christ hath "abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light by the gospel"; but he may not know (or if he does, he is not influenced by the knowledge) that he is still subject to all the consequences of sin which Jesus came to remove. He may read in another place, that "the gift of God is eternal life," and yet be ignorant that all his life he has been earning "the wages of sin," which "is death."
II. That revelation then, must be first general; and secondly, particular. "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, BUT MY FATHER, WHICH IS IN HEAVEN." It is the prerogative of the Father in heaven to reveal His Son. Angels cannot tell what Jesus is; the highest intellect in heaven would fail to reveal it. But the Father does reveal it. But as we have seen that multitudes remain ignorant, though God has opened the page of revelation, we need a particular revelation. The Bible is a revelation from God the Father to us; but we need a revelation of Christ in us. During all lives, God has revealed Christ to us; but has He revealed Christ in us. It must be the result o! an express revelation from God the Father, through His own blessed Spirit, to our inward souls; it must be the everlasting Spirit "taking of the things of Christ, and showing them to us."
III. THAT BLESSED ARE THEY WHO HAVE SUCH A KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST, AS A REVELATION FROM GOD. "Blessed art thou, Simon," etc. There is no true state that can be deemed blessed, but that which results from a saving knowledge of Christ. He who has this revelation is blessed.
1. In the certainty of his knowledge. He hath the witness in himself.
2. In the reality of the effects of the truth. "The truth has made him free." He is "an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ."
3. In the final and eternal results which follow. "Eye hath not seen," etc.
(G. Fisk, LL. B.)
I. THE POPULAR IMPRESSION CONCERNING JESUS.
II. THE APOSTOLIC CONFESSION REGARDING JESUS.
III. THE ACCEPTANCE BY JESUS OF THIS CONFESSION.
1. The immense importance of the answer given to this question.
2. The utter inadequacy of any answer to this question save one.
3. The complete satisfaction which the true answer affords.
(J. R. Thomson, M. A.)I. It is evident, from the history, that our Lord desired to awaken some sort of anxiety in the minds of His followers, and to excite their feelings of loyalty to truth and to Himself, so that they might be upon their guard against disaffection under any popular pressure, or any wild popular perversions of His character or mission.
II. This, then, was the great confession of faith, which has come down to us through the ages.
1. First, it will follow from a story like this, that it is of vast consequence what a man believes, and all the more if he be sincere in his creed.
2. We learn also that it is not enough to admit the bare record, and so simply consent to an historic Christ.
3. Again, to a human soul, struggling for its immortal life, Jesus the Saviour is everything at once, or He is nothing forever.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
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