In Mark 8 the entire direction of Jesus’ life turns in a new direction out of a really innocent question: “Who do people say I am?” The disciples answer and then Jesus asks a far more searching question – “Who do you say I am?” By this stage and time they had probably been with Jesus for 18 months to 2 years, living with him, sleeping with him, eating with him and experiencing almost everything alongside him. So it was a fair enough question, Jesus wanted to know if they had actually got it yet, did they truly recognise Jesus for who he was?
The immediate answer from Peter says yes – at least Peter, if not all of them, recognised Jesus for the Messiah, the Christ, the one who would redeem and save Israel. So Jesus accepts the answer, tells them not to pass that on to others, and then proceeds to teach them what will happen in the coming months. It is here that we learn that either Peter had accepted the falsely optimistic and wrong interpretation of their scriptures of a Messiah who would rid them of Roman rule and would come as the victor to defeat all their earthly enemies, or that Peter had recognised Jesus as the Messiah in his head but not in his heart. Peter would have known the Jewish scriptures far better than we know the Bible we have today. Young Jews learnt the scriptures by heart, and they would have especially focused on the Messianic prophecies in the scriptures.
As Jesus turns to talk about his death and resurrection he was simply bringing into reality the prophetic words in the scriptures about the Messiah, but Peter was not able to hear or accept them.
I wonder how many people today in our churches have been around the teaching of the scriptures for years, even decades, but have never seen the reality and truth that is in them. I feel a personal and high responsibility for that as a preacher, teacher and church leader. If Jesus was to ask you the question today “Who do you say that I am” how would you reply? And as you reply is it with an intellectual answer, or is it that intellectual answer backed up by your heart and the commitment of your life?