“Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’” (Mark 8:27–28)
Some of the folks in Jesus’ day thought of Jesus as a religious reformer, like John the Baptist. Others saw him as a social reformer, like Elijah. Others thought him to be a prophetic teacher of ethics. All were acceptable, to one degree or another, in first century Israel.
But when Jesus asks Peter his opinion, Peter responds, “You are the Christ.” Unacceptable. The Christ would change everything in society—and there were too many folks invested in the power structures who would be disenfranchised.
I thought of this recently when reading John the Baptist’s description of himself, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:23) The 20th Century Bible Commentator, Arthur Pink, says of this verse, “What a position for the Messiah’s forerunner to occupy! Surely his place was in Jerusalem. Why then did not John cry in the temple? Why, because Jehovah was no more there in the temple. Judaism was but a hollow shell: outward form there was, but no life within. It was to a nation of legalists, Pharisee ridden, who neither manifested Abraham’s faith nor produced his works.”
One might say the same about the secularization of our nation. What began as a biblically based, spiritually vigorous nation has become a “hollow shell” of her former self. Some of the outward form remains, but there is no spiritual life.
For example, simply look at Harvard’s mission statement, “Our mission to educate future leaders is woven throughout the Harvard College experience, inspiring every member of our community to strive toward a more just, fair, and promising world.”
A worthy goal, no doubt. But compare today’s mission to its original mission statement from 1646, “Everyone shall consider as the main End of his life and studies, to know God and Jesus Christ, which is Eternal life (John 17:3). That’s quite a difference.
Like our predecessors in Israel, we will allow Jesus the social reformer. We’ll stomach Jesus the religious reformer. We might even listen to Jesus the ethics teacher.
But Jesus the Christ? No, not Him. He changes everything.
Jim Mann, Ph.D. pastors New Life Church at Robson Ranch. This interdenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. and online. Visit www.newlifedenton.org for more information or www.drjimmann.com.