And Jesus and His disciples went out into the towns of Caesarea Philippi. And in the way He asked His disciples, saying to them, Who do men say that I am? And they answered, John the Baptist. But others say Elijah, and others say one of the prophets. And He said to them, But who do you say that I am? And Peter answered and said to Him, You are the Messiah. And He charged them that they should tell no one of 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 scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He spoke that saying openly. And Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked on His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, Go behind Me, Satan! For you do not mind the things of God, but of the things of men. And calling near the crowd with His disciples, He said to them, Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever will save his life shall lose it; but whoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s, he shall save it. For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Therefore whoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My Words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man shall also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. – Mark 8:27-38
Just before this passage, Yeshua had seemingly experienced some failure in the healing of a blind man. The first act of giving the man sight resulted in him only seeing without clarity. The second time Yeshua put His hands on the man’s eyes resulted in him receiving full sight. This scene was not only a physical reality — a blind man was healed — but also a parable and a prophecy: even the disciples of the Lord were not seeing clearly who Jesus really was; and the Messiah is still at work to bring His identity into sharp focus for all – believer and unbeliever alike.
Up till now, Yeshua had performed many miracles and healings and signs among the people, yet His closest disciples still seemed to be uncertain who it was that they were walking with. Yeshua is now going to bring them to a ‘valley of decision’ – a moment of truth to choose to recognize and to accept, or to reject: a decision that determines destiny. (עמק החרוץ Joel 3:14)
Yeshua asked His disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” The answers were very interesting: Elijah, Jeremiah, John the Baptiser, one of the other prophets. (Mark 6:14-15; Matt. 16:13-18) Did the apostles and the Jewish people believe in reincarnation!? (see John 9:1-2) But then Jesus said to them: “But you, who do you say that I am?” And Peter, always ready, answered, “You are the Messiah, [the Son of the living God].” Then Yeshua strictly charged the disciples not to tell anyone about Him! They still did not know what it meant that He was the Messiah. They were still not seeing clearly or understanding; but they knew now that He is the one of whom Moses and the Prophets wrote. The Son of God did not come to become famous or popular. Again we see that God’s ways are not like those of men or women who think more highly of themselves than is suitable. (Rom. 12:2-3) In Matthew’s gospel, he adds that Yeshua told Simon Peter that his confession of the revelation of who Yeshua is did not come from flesh and blood, but from Yeshua’s Father in Heaven; that is, from God. This is the foundation upon which the Lord builds His household of faith, against which not even death can overcome the believers. (Matt. 16:16-18; 1 John 2:20-25)
Yeshua began to teach the apostles the truth about what it meant that He was Messiah. In Jewish teaching and expectation at that time, there were those who thought that the Messiah would come as a conquering King, the son of David. Others taught that the Messiah would come — not necessarily from David’s line (1 Kings 12:16) — and overthrow the Roman enemy and occupiers, freeing Israel and the Jewish people from foreign domination to be a free people in their own land. The mystery of the cross and of the gospel was hidden from them, and now Yeshua had come — the truth, the life, and the way. Yeshua told them that being the Messiah meant, firstly, that He was going to “suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again”. All of their prior understanding of the Messiah had been false or distorted. This is what gives rise to false Messiahs/Christs – being deceived about the truth of the Messiah/Christ being Yeshua/Jesus.
(Tonight is Lag B’Omer – the 33rd day of the counting of the sheaves of wheat between the Passover week and Shavuot/Pentecost. This day is a celebration of a false prophet and of a false Messiah. Rabbi Akiva claimed that Bar-Kochba was the Messiah, who was going to defeat the Romans and regain the holy city of Jerusalem. Yet the rabbi – who was burned at the stake — is still considered one of the sages of Judaism, and everyone knows now that Bar-Kochba was not the Messiah. Orthodox Judaism even forbids marriages during this period until after this truly pagan fire holiday!)
We know that these closest disciples never did “hear” the words, “and after three days rise again”, because until they actually saw Jesus after His resurrection, they had believed that His death brought an end to their hope that He was, in fact, the Redeemer. (Matt. 28:17; Mark 16:11-14; Luke 24:13-32; John 20:24-25)
Peter, who had just been blessed for confessing the revelation from God the Father, was now speaking on behalf of Satan when he rebuked Yeshua, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (Matt. 16:22) Yeshua then rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men”. The devil was quick at work to try to steal the Word which Yeshua had sown into the heart of His dear followers. (Mark 4:14-15) It was God’s plan and good pleasure that His Son would be the sacrifice to atone for the sins of every man, woman, and child. (Isa. 53:10-12)
Jesus then spoke to all of the people there, with his disciples, and told them all what it would mean for all who confess in faith and become followers of Yeshua the Nazarene (not, the Nazirite); and He connects it with His second coming: we will have to deny ourselves and pick up our own crosses to follow Him; we will have to be willing to die for Him and for the gospel; the whole world is not the value of even one soul; we must not be ashamed or embarrassed about Jesus or of His words. (Luke 9:26; Rev. 3:8) Remember that even many of His disciples had been offended and embarrassed by His hard sayings regarding eating His flesh and drinking His blood. (John 6:53-69) In today’s post-modern and post-Christian world, the Bible – God’s Word – is under attack; the exclusivity of Jesus being the only way to God the Father is attacked; the truth that God remains faithful and committed to His covenant promises to Israel is attacked; the truth that homosexuality is still a sin is under attack. Believers are to stand with the Lord and His words in this “adulterous and sinful generation”.
What are some lessons for us in knowing who Yeshua is?
–Before we became believers we did not understand what it means for someone to be the Messiah, especially that Jesus is the Messiah. He is not the Messiah that we expected. That being so, we bore false testimony against Him, simply by denying that He is the Messiah, the Son of God. (Exod. 20:16; Deut. 5:20)
–Yeshua told Peter that his clear acknowledgement of Him being the Messiah was a revelation from the Father. It was not something that was being taught; it was not something that could be simply intellectually figured out. The demons and the devil already knew who Yeshua was; they were not deceived like people are.
Each person needs this revelation of who Yeshua is. It is not enough to grow up hearing about Him, or even being taught. If that were all that was needed, then every person who has been brought up in a Christian or Messianic home or society would know that the Messiah/Christ is Yeshua/Jesus. But they do not. It requires a revelation from the Father. If any of you here do not yet see clearly who Jesus is, ask the Father to reveal Him to you. Ask the Lord to heal your spiritual blindness. It is essential if you are going to be capable of truly being His disciple and not ashamed of Him or His words. This gives confidence when He will come in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
–There is unity among the believers who have this revelation. All of the apostles were brought to that point of certainty regarding who Yeshua was/is. Even Thomas; even Judas Ishcariot. Whatever each of the apostles and the people had understood before that ‘valley of decision’, the Good Shepherd was going on from there. They were going on together from there with the Lord breaking through before them. If they were to begin arguing or discussing things as they had previously understood them, the Lord was going on from there. He was not going back. This unified the disciples. It still did not guarantee covenant faithfulness to Yeshua or to His way. Sin is a dreadfully strong slave master!
It is my conviction that the Body of Messiah is in need of another such revelation from the Father that is going to bring unity to the disciples of Yeshua at this time. There are many differing and opposing interpretations of what is going on in these last days, and of Israel’s part, of believers in Jesus’ part, and of the abiding truth of the Word of YHVH God. Just as the truth of Messiah was written in the Scriptures – but not understood – so, too, is the truth of where God is now in His plan of redemption also written in the Old and the New Testaments – but divisively not agreed upon. We need a common, corporate, Holy Spirit revelatory moment to bring us together in His truth and love to enable us to do effectively what the Lord has called us to for His glory and purpose. There will still be Thomases and Judases among us (Lord, have mercy on me!), but the power needed to stand as one in this adulterous and sinful generation until the Day of Messiah necessitates such a revelation. Let us love one another in the hope we have in our God. And let us stand in the truth that we do know: Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God. Yeshua is LORD, to the glory of God the Father!
We were blind, but now we see. Praise God!
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, May 13, 2017, and reposted with permission.