According to preacher and author Ravi Zacharias, someone once asked Larry King, "If you could select any one person across all of history to interview, who would it be?" King replied that he would interview Jesus. Out of all the people who have ever lived, he chose Jesus. When asked why, he said "I would like to ask him if he was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me."
When Zacharias heard about it, he wrote to King's representatives asking for permission to quote him on that. King not only gave his consent, he also added, "…tell him I was not being facetious."
I appreciate King's sincerity. No matter what we do or don't believe about Jesus, his life and ministry and the things his followers say about him defines history. So much depends on the true identity of Jesus of Nazareth. So much hinges on how we respond to the claims that he made about himself.
Today we'll see one of those claims. It's widely held that our passage for the day is a major turning point in the Gospel of Mark. Apart from the crucifixion, it's the most important moment in Mark's account of Jesus' life.
No more room for doubt. No more questions or rumors or reading between the lines. We finally realize that it's not about the healings. It's not about obscure arguments about the Law of Moses—whether or not we can work on the Sabbath or eat without cleansing ourselves. All of these are interesting, even important questions.
But they all pale in comparison to the real question, the one that Jesus asks in Mark 8. It's the question that Larry King and so many before him have wrestled. Jesus asks his followers, "Who do you say that I am?"
In the end that's the only question that matters. It's the only one that Jesus really wants us to answer. That's right, he wants us to answer it. He wants us to answer it this morning. Even if we've already answered it before. Because it's not a question that you ask once and then put into storage. Jesus' identity is something we are called to decide every day.
I hope you won't avoid this question this morning. I have to ask it. I can't preach on any of the Gospels without bringing us face to face with it. At some point it is a question that will change your life. What Jesus wants to know is, "Who do you say I am?"