Mark 8: 27 – 9: 1 NLT
“Peter’s Declaration about Jesus
27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”
29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”
30 But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
Jesus Predicts His Death
31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. 32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.
33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
9 Jesus went on to say, “I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power!”
These verses took place in Caesarea Philippi which was located in a more northern part of Israel, a place that Jesus seldom went to. Apparently, it was more of a Roman area, and Herod had his palace there. It was also known for the worship of pagan gods. I thought that was an interesting place for Jesus to ask the disciples who they thought he was. Perhaps it was a purposeful declaration in the most pagan area of the country – God had arrived on earth.
There were several answers given. Remember how Herod thought John the Baptist, who he had beheaded, had come to life? (6:16) I guess his guilty conscience was bothering him. But apparently that was something many people believed. Others thought Jesus was Elijah. Do you wonder why they came up with that idea? Steve Wilmhurst in A Ransom for Many explains where that idea came from:
“What about option number two – Elijah? Now Elijah is a really interesting possibility. He was one of the most dynamic of Old Testament prophets, living during the reigns of some really terrible kings in Israel around 800 years earlier. But the key point is that the very last Old Testament prophet, Malachi, foretold that Elijah would be sent by God to prepare for the Day of the Lord, when he would intervene in human history and bring in his judgement and eternal reign (Malachi 4:5). Faithful Jews are watching for the appearance of this great prophet who will herald the dawning of the new age. Maybe this Jesus is the promised Elijah!
What people don’t seem to realize is that these two options are actually one and the same. Option 1 – John: a radical prophet who wears a hair cloak and a leather belt, has an eccentric diet, spends a lot of time in the desert and says he is preparing for a greater one who will follow him. Option 2 – Elijah: a radical prophet who wears a hair cloak and a leather belt, has an eccentric diet, spends a lot of time in the desert and was prophesied to return and prepare for God who will follow him. Doesn’t that suggest anything? Yes: John the Baptist is the Elijah who was to come – and that is exactly what Jesus says about him in 9:13. Perhaps we need to point out that this is not about reincarnation! It is Elijah’s promised ministry that is seen in John the Baptist. John is the Elijah who was to return to prepare the way for God’s coming – and what does that make Jesus? Here is one more jigsaw piece of evidence about Jesus’ identity.”
Many people said Jesus was a prophet – just an important person with a message from God. That is actually similar to the way many people today think of Jesus. He was a good man with many excellent ideas about how to live well. Many other religions including Islam agree that Jesus was a prophet – a good person.
Peter has an inspiration from God and declares that Jesus is the Messiah. That was a turning point moment. Up to now in Mark, he has written about the amazing things Jesus has done and taught – proof of who Jesus is; but now he will begin writing about why Jesus has really come to earth. “Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead.” (v. 31)
Don’t you find it interesting that just a few moments later Peter takes Jesus aside and reprimands him for talking about dying and rising from the dead? He has just declared that Jesus is the Messiah. Just like us, Peter and the rest of Jesus’ disciples are slow to truly comprehend who Jesus is. They know, but in a way they don’t know. Just as I mentioned yesterday, we can believe that Jesus is God, that he died and rose again to forgive us our sin, but there are times when we doubt God’s care for us or even his existence. Have you had doubts like that? Like Peter, we are slow to genuinely understand everything God is. Jesus says we see “things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s”. (v. 33)
Jesus goes on to say, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” (v. 34) What is Jesus saying? We must be prepared to live a life with no promises of security, wealth, stability, etc.? We are to follow Jesus who ended up suffering and dying on a cross? Sometimes today, Christianity is portrayed as a crutch to help people live their lives. They may be too afraid and think they are not that competent, so they rely on this ‘faith thing’ to prop themselves up. Other folks see Christianity as a good way to live. Follow the Golden Rule and be kind to people. If you are generous and donate to worthy causes, you are looked up to in the community. Others actually preach a ‘prosperity gospel’ – follow Jesus as best you can, and you will stay healthy and prosper financially.
Jesus says none of that! If we follow him, we will likely face a difficult, tough road ahead – just like he did. People will misunderstand us. We may find we are overlooked for promotions because we are seen as too religious. Or life may go well by our 2020 standards. We don’t know. What we do know is that we must follow Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit no matter what the consequences may be. For people who say ‘no’, I’ll do it my way, there will be rejection by God. This decision to be a Christ follower is a huge one. Will God become first in my life, or will I put myself first? Our natural inclination is to put ourselves first. We want things to go well for us. Many of our decisions are based on what is best for me.
This is a huge challenge for me. I want to follow God’s leading, but sometimes I put that aside. Does that mean God will reject me? No. I also have to remember that God is patient with us and is willing to forgive us when we fail. This is not a case of being accepted and rejected by God depending on my behaviour.
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1: 9)
Jesus finishes this conversation by saying, “I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power!” (9: 1) Does that mean the disciples will see God’s kingdom arrive on earth during their lifetime? Actually, that is the introduction to what we call the transfiguration of Jesus, when three of the disciples see Jesus transfigured into the way he actually is as God.
These last verses in Mark 8 are definitely the turning point in the gospel. Jesus becomes more open about what the future for him holds. By his miracles and teaching, he has told them he is the Messiah. Now he will explain further what that actually means, and it’s not just doing wonderful things.
A Ransom for Many: The Gospel of Mark Simply Explained, Wilmhurst, Steve – Chapter 12 – Welwyn Commentary Series, Evangelical Press, 2011