February 07, 2006

Study of Mark: Mark 8:27-31

And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And they told him, "John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets." And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Christ." And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. 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 8:27-31 ESV)
The most important question that anyone can ever ask is in verse 29. "Who do you say that I am?"

Christ starts with who everyone else was saying He was. And people had a lot of things that they thought about Him. A lot of wrong things.

People still do that today. We see it in the Jesus Seminar. We see it in the writings of Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman. The Jesus that they create is a Jesus that reflects what they want. A wise teacher. A moral philosopher. A social revolutionary. A political visionary.

Our own personal Jesus.

One of the contributors over at Blogcritics has a tagline that he adds to almost every comment he makes -- gnosis > dogma. Individual truth trumps the teachings of any religion or religious group. And he and I have had some fun discussions over there about Christianity and faith. It's hard, though, to debate someone who rejects basic principles of Christianity out of hand. I guess I'd have to call myself a presuppositionalist -- I think that there are basic presuppositions that have to be assumed, kind of like Plantinga's properly basic belief.

This is one of the passages that I think often gets overlooked by the folks seeking to paint their own picture of Jesus. Even though there is no affirmation given to Peter as there is in the other Gospel accounts, there is no rebuke. Peter is clearly proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah, and Jesus is accepting Peter's proclamation. There's a difference between the Jesus that everyone else sees and the Jesus that Peter sees. That difference is in the mission of Jesus Christ. And it's at this point that Jesus starts to show His followers exactly what is going to be happening in the near future.

This is another example of Jesus telling His disciples not to let people know about Him. He knew what the reaction would be -- the people would declare Him their King, and try to overthrow the Roman rule in Israel. That wasn't His mission. So He had to educate His disciples, and give them the tools they needed to go into the entire world and preach the Gospel.

But they couldn't do that until He rose again. If they had told people what was about to happen, they would have tried to prevent it. It makes no sense to us -- God having to sacrifice His own Son to pay our sin debt for us. Once the atoning sacrifice was made, the disciples had a message for the world that everyone could verify. The empty tomb was there. The trial records were there. The eyewitnesses were there. Everything was there for people to investigate for themselves.

And yet we still deny it. We refuse to believe that it's true. Why?

One, because it requires us to admit that there is something supernatural. Christ's ministry was full of miracles. Miracles are inconvenient things for someone whose worldview is tied so closely to science -- they cannot be duplicated in a laboratory setting, the witnesses to them are usually unreliable (often "true believers" themselves). The accounts of Christ's miracles are unscientific, written by uneducated peasants in a backwater part of the Roman empire. Miracles are things that are thrown out easilly -- even by Christians. And the miracles allow us to throw out all the historic information that we have in the Gospels. If the writers include such unhistorical accounts in their narrative, how can we really buy any of it? And once we do that, we don't really have to believe anything but our own gnossis.

And two, because it requires us to be accountable to someone else for our actions. If there is a God that required a sacrifice, and then was merciful enough to provide that sacrifice for those who would believe, we have an obligation to believe. There's no other option -- we don't get in through a back door. We get in His way, or not at all. That offends our pluralism. That offends out "tolerance." And, bottom line, it offends our self-reliance.

I've heard it before -- "I didn't ask God to sacrifice His son for me. I don't accept it -- I didn't want it. If I can't get in on my own merit, then I'll just go to Hell." Right before they say they don't believe God will send them to Hell, of course -- they don't really want to believe that there is a consequence for their actions. We want to believe that we can handle it all ourselves, and the idea of the substitutionary atonement offends that belief. It shows us that there is something of eternal, ultimate importance that we cannot handle ourselves. It shows us that we need a Savior.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 08:55 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 Thanks for posting this. I found this through the Christian Carnival.

Posted by: Martin LaBar at February 09, 2006 12:37 AM (qivX6)

2 You show a great deal of patience here! Hats off to ya! It is hard for me to even discuss these things. My writing begins with my firm belief in a supernatural God to Whom we are to be in complete submission. WE can do nothing ourselves, and certainly not save ourselves. I do have a friend or two with whom i will debate but as for blogging, the discussion BEGINS with the givens. Always good to see what you're doin.

Posted by: cwv warrior at February 10, 2006 04:27 PM (bPi++)

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