The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Mark 8:27 “Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ 28 They told Him, saying, ‘John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.’ 29 And He continued by questioning them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said to Him, ‘You are the Christ.’ 30 And He warned them to tell no one about Him. 31 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. 32 And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’ 34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’” (NASB)
By Mark chapter 8 the disciples have followed Jesus for a couple of years or more. They were suppose to be learning all along. They were suppose to be learning the proper use of the Law, the Gospel, and the Gospel’s proper application.
In this morning’s Gospel lesson it was time for a pop quiz, a quiz that began with a primer. “‘Who do people say that I am?’ 28 They told Him, saying, ‘John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.’” All the answers given were honorable answers. Their answers give us a picture of what the people thought about Jesus and about how God worked in the world. In there minds Jesus was one of the great prophets of the Old Testament brought back from the dead, either reborn or descended from above.
Their answers also show that they simply didn’t know how to read and understand the Bible. That is a problem in every time and in every generation, ours included. They thought that passages that say God would one day raise up a prophet like Moses or Elijah meant that Moses and Elijah, or some other great Old Testament prophet, even John the Baptist would come back to life in this world. Those passages were prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, the ultimate Prophet. The people’s answers were honorable, just wrong.
The opening question wasn’t really what Jesus was interested in. He knew what the people thought. For that matter He knew what the disciples thought. He was creating another teaching moment, a moment of plain speaking that the disciples would understand or at least come to understand.
“He [Jesus] continued by questioning them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said to Him, ‘You are the Christ.’” The Gospel of Matthew has the full statement by Peter, “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God.”
Several disciples answered the first question, but this time only one answers– Peter. Having answered it, there was no need for anyone else to say a word. They all shared the same conviction–Jesus is the Christ. “Christ” is the English translation of the New Testament Greek word for the Old Testament word “Messiah.” Both mean the “Anointed One,” as in God’s “Anointed Savior.”
Peter gave the right answer, but given what we are about to read in subsequent verses it appears that everyone from Peter to Judas didn’t understand what it meant to be “the Christ.”
As I mentioned last week, Mark’s Gospel is compressed. It is a condensed version Matthew and Luke. While the Gospels of Matthew and Luke usually include more details and spaces events out, the Gospel of Mark compresses them and piles up one momentous event after another and links them together with the word immediately.
When the assigned readings come from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke then tend to be spread out over multiple Sundays. So when using series A and C of the readings, Peter’s confession will be read on one Sunday and the rebuke and the like on another. Because of the compressed nature of Mark’s Gospel Peter’s confession, Jesus’ teaching on suffering, and the rebuke of Peter are all dealt with in one fled swoop.
Peter answered “‘You are the Christ.’ 30 And He warned them to tell no one about Him. 31 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.”
Peter gave the right answer, but Jesus knew they did not understand what the answer meant. So Jesus “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.”
Notice as well, before Jesus begins to teach them what is that is going to happen to the Christ, Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anyone that He is the Christ. That instruction seems a bit strange. Jesus had spent His whole ministry preaching the Gospel and telling people that He was the promised Messiah. He did this right from the start. His first sermon in His hometown He read a scroll of the prophet Isaiah and said, today this is fulfilled in your hearing.
Jesus was clear enough about Who He was that the religious leaders were lining up to oppose Him and plotting to kill Him because He was a “blasphemer.” But here Jesus tells them to keep it a secret.
Think of it this way. The answer is given. “You are the Christ,” then Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anyone and immediately teaches the disciples the details of what it means to be the “Christ.” Jesus is telling them to keep what He is about to tell them concerning the Christ to themselves until after His resurrection.
If the disciples return to the multitudes and tell them that Jesus is the Christ and that the religious leaders are hatching a plot to kill the promised Messiah with the help of the Romans, there might well be a revolt, mob action against the religious and Roman leaders. There was already a lot of misunderstanding concerning the mission of the Christ. Jesus is taking steps to make sure people don’t confuse His march to the cross with a political revolt.
Remember what Jesus told Pilate? (John 18:36) “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” The Christ was not about a political revolution or unseating proper authority. Jesus came into the world to die for the sins of the world and Jesus didn’t want a mob to get in the way of His mission.
The time for clarity had come. Jesus was laying the foundation of the New Testament Church’s doctrine. The doctrine of the Christ was so important that Jesus abandons the practice of speaking in parables. As He approaches the Cross, He speaks plainly. 32 “And He was stating the matter plainly.”
Jesus was so clear even Peter understood. The Son of Man is going to rejected, suffer, and be crucified before rising from the dead. Peter pulls Jesus aside and tells Him to stop talking about His own death. A suffering and dying Christ doesn’t fit Peter’s idea of the Christ. Whatever Peter’s motives, Jesus puts His finger on the real problem. “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
Jesus’ rebuke teaches us that Peter not only misunderstanding what the Christ came to do, but also Peter was acting as an agent of Satan. Peter had become an agent of temptation, tempting Jesus to abandon the cross.
Peter’s intentions pose represent a kind of paradox. Peter has the best of intentions–right? He loves Jesus and wants spare Jesus this terrible fate. On the other hand, Peter’s good intentions are getting in the way of what God the Father has sent God the Son to do. There’s a difference. The interests and judgments man and the interests and judgments of God are not the same thing. In fact, they are most often in direct opposition one to the other.
How often do we make decisions based on what seems right to us instead of applying God’s Word and proper theology to a matter? How often do we, like Peter, proceed based on our gut reactions, our feelings and forget that God has something great in store for us?
Jesus acts quickly to address problem. 34 “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.’”
In that moment when Peter tried to persuade Jesus to turn away from Good Friday, Peter was ashamed of the cross. He was ashamed of what Jesus had begun teaching about His suffering and death. Peter wanted Jesus to save His own life and forsake the crucifixion. It took the crucifixion and resurrection for Peter to let that hope go . Even in the Garden of Gethsemane Peter draws his sword and attempts to start a fight to save Jesus from the cross. But here Jesus teaches “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Jesus lost His life for the sake of the Gospel. He forfeited His life so He could give it to you in the Water and the Word.
Thus the Epistle lesson assigned for this morning. Romans 5:6 “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. . . 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
In the wilderness temptation the devil failed to persuade Jesus to give up His cross. Here again the devil tries, by using Peter’s good intentions to persuade Jesus to forsake His mission, even though it appears that even Satan doesn’t understand what the mission is exactly.
In His reply to Peter, Jesus teaches that God’s ways are not our ways. Sinful human beings will corrupt and twist Christian doctrine and worship until the Second Coming. Sinful human beings don’t want a theology of the cross. They want theologies of glory, which are always conceived in man’s sinful mind.
But Jesus teaches us here 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;
- He is the One who put Satan behind Him in the wilderness temptation;
- He is the One who set His mind solely on God’s interests not man’s;
- He denied Himself and took up His cross and followed God the Holy Spirit to the cross;
- He lost His life so that He could give us His; and He is the One Who was not ashamed of His Father’s words and will; and finally;
- And He is the One Who is not ashamed of you.
For while we were helpless, while we were still enemies, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly [and] we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
May the peace that surpasses all understanding keep our minds and hearts in Christ Jesus. Amen.