MAIN TEXT: MARK 8:27-32
And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about 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 the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
Today’s text provides answers to three crucial questions:
- Who is Jesus?
- What did He come to do?
- What does He expect of you?
Our text is also the beginning of what is known as the “Great Discipleship Discourse” (Mark 8:31-10:52). During this discourse Jesus predicts His passion (suffering) three times. After each of these three predictions of suffering, He instructs His disciples of what it means to truly follow Him. The disciples never really receive nor understand what it will mean to be His disciple:
- Peter tries to correct Him on what kind of a Messiah He will be (Mark 8:32).
- They debate greatness in the kingdom (Mark 9:34).
- James and John try to get positions ahead of the others (Mark 10:37).
Jesus explains what the normal Christian life looks like and what it means to follow Jesus. Jesus came to die and serve and He calls His followers to die and serve as well.
Confess who Jesus is
Just like Jesus brought physical sight to the blind man in Bethsaida, He will now bring spiritual sight to the disciples concerning who He is and what kind of Messiah He will be. The Twelve have been pondering a question since He calmed the sea in Mark 4:41. “Who then is this?”
There is an inescapable question
Jesus asks a straightforward question, “Who do people say that I am?” (verse 27). The disciples gave the popular opinions that were circulating.
- A reincarnation of John the Baptist
- Elijah, the prophet that proclaimed the “Day of the Lord”
- One of the prophets – perhaps the One promised by Moses (verse 28)
These were positive assessments and affirmed something special about Jesus. Many today applaud Jesus as a great moral teacher – the example that we should emulate. This is honoring but a misrepresentation. They applaud Him while denying who He really is.
There is one acceptable answer
Jesus shifts the question and makes it personal to His disciples. Many declarations of Jesus’ identity have been given since the beginning of Mark’s Gospel.
- “Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1)
- God the Father – “You are My Beloved Son, I take delight in You” (Mark 1:11)
- Demons – “the Holy One of God”; “You are the Son of God”; “Jesus, Son of the Most High God” (Mark 1:24; 3:11; 5:7)
- Later a Centurion will say, “This man really was God’s Son!” (Mark 15:39)
In our text, Peter declares, “You are the Christ” (verse 29). Peter and the disciples reject popular opinions of the crowds and so should we! The witness of Scripture is the authority of Jesus’ identity and any views that we have of Him.
Learn and affirm the ways of God and not man
The first half of Mark takes us to, “You are the Christ”. The second half will take us to the confession, “You are God’s Son” as Jesus suffers. The first half tells us who Jesus is and the second half will tell us what he came to do. The King must die. Our response is to take up our cross and follow Him. A King who dies is not that they expected or wanted. It is, however, exactly what they desperately needed.
God’s ways are often hard but clear
Jesus will usher in an eternal Kingdom that He will rule over as King and Lord. God’s way of establishing this Kingdom will be different from the world (that exalts power) would expect. Jesus will suffer, be rejected, be killed, and rise three days later (verse 31).
All this must happen. It is necessary. It is what is promised in Scripture and this is why He came. This is what sin’s punishment demands and we cannot provide. This is where the law of God and the love of God will meet. Judgment and grace will kiss. God’s ways are often hard but clear.
God’s will is often a challenge but perfect
Peter was good with Jesus as the Messiah – but He was not good with Jesus going to the cross. Peter rebukes Jesus (verse 32). Bad call! Jesus treats Peter as if he was Satan or a demon possessed man (verse 33) –like Satan at the temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:9-11). Peter is offering Jesus the Crown without the cross.
Understand and accept that Jesus calls you to die
God’s ways are often hard but usually clear. His ways are challenging but perfect. The suffering (passion) of Christ reinforces this truth. We must be confident that God’s will is perfect and embrace the call of Jesus to follow Him and die in order that we and others might live.
The self-centered life must be put to death
Jesus lays out the basics of the normal Christian life (verse 34). Sadly, today this looks more like a radical Christian life.
Jesus gives three essentials:
Deny yourself. Give up the right to self-determination. Live as Christ directs in His Words and life. Treasure Jesus more than yourself, your comforts, and your aspirations. Say no to you and yes to Jesus.
Take up your cross. Die. Luke 9:23 adds the word “daily”. This is not normal or natural but it is necessary to be Christ’s disciple. It is a slow and painful death to self and sin.
Follow me! We must be willing to believe and obey Jesus. This involves a death to the self-centered life.
The next four (verses 35-38) all start with “For”. These are the basis for the challenge in verse 34.
The safe life must be put to death
If you save or treasure your life above all else, you will lose it. The one who considers his existence more important than Jesus will lose both Jesus and eternal life. The opposite is true as well – the one who gives his life for Jesus and the gospel will actually save it. Following Jesus involves risking safety, security, and satisfaction in this world. The reward is one that the world can never offer.
The self-serving life must be put to death
Your life is set free to live the normal Christian life when you see death as reward. Paul put it well, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). The answer to Jesus’ questions in verse 36 and 37 is nothing.
JESUS’ CALL TO DISCIPLESHIP IS RADICAL!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
How is Jesus’ call to discipleship “radical”? How have we made the normal Christian life less radical than what the Bible calls for?
How does the world entice you to live the self-centered life? How does the giving up the right to self-determination counter those temptations?
Compare the sayings “The safe life must be put to death” and “The safest place to be is in the middle of God’s will.” What is the definition of safe in each case?