27 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?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.”[a] 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,[b] will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words[c] in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”(Mark 8:27-38 NRSV)
They are traveling through the heart and soul of world power. A city dedicated to Caesar by one of the Herod’s. A city who chooses to worship one of the gods of Baal. World power is celebrated, practiced and worshiped in this place.
“Who do people say that I am?” An interesting question from Jesus. What are the rumors and stories going around?
“Well. Some say John the Baptist. Others Elijah. And others simply say one of the prophets.”
Jesus nods his head. Then he asks the big question, “Who do you say that I am?”
Who do you say that I am? Be careful how you answer this question. Because when you finally answer it, you’ll also tell Jesus and the world who you are.
When Peter answers, “You are the Messiah,” we nod in relief. He got it right! Jesus is Messiah; anointed; out of the line of David. But, Peter doesn’t have it quite right. Messiah in first century Palestine meant not only a king out of the line of David. It carried with it the expectation that he would free Israel from oppressors and restore Israel to its former glory and independence.
No wonder Jesus said, “Don’t repeat what you just said.” Don’t repeat it because you have some more learning to do! And Jesus dives right in.
Here’s what you can expect of your Messiah: the Son of Man is going to suffer. He’ll undergo rejection, betrayal, death. And then he’ll be raised on the third day. Hardly, are his words out of his mouth when Peter rebukes him.
That’s not the message to deliver, Jesus! Tell them how we’ll gather an army of soldiers and head for Jerusalem to take over! Tell them how glorious it’ll be and why some will have to die! Tell them—
“Get behind me Satan!”
You’ve got Messiah confused, Peter! Messiah is of God. Messiah isn’t of this world of power and money and military might. Messiah can’t be tamed. Messiah can’t be turned into our image. Messiah isn’t someone who makes us winners.
Peter, you don’t understand. If you’re going to follow me, you’re going to have to take up the cross. While Peter shrinks in horror, he thinks of those he’s watched who have had the cross beam strapped to their shoulders while they walked to their death. He remembers the wailing of pain as they were hung high.
Peter doesn’t want to go there. And neither do you or I. Jesus calls us not to martyr ourselves, but to be willing to go that far. Jesus acknowledges that life is hard; that we’ll be faced with suffering because we live in a broken world. But, that’s not our cross.
Taking up our cross means that we’re willing to suffer the consequences of following Jesus faithfully. It means that Jesus comes first; his priorities are our priorities. It means that our time and energy and gifts and talents are used in the service of Christ.
Think hard about this Peter. Think real hard. Because where I’m headed is to ride a donkey, not a war horse, into Jerusalem. Where I’m headed is to a cross, not a throne.
It’s worth it, though, Peter. It’s so worth it. Look around you. Do you really think Casesar is a happy, peace-filled man? No, he’s afraid of losing power and he’s greedy for more. The powerful elite are hanging onto power by their fingernails. They are in it for themselves. There’s no joy in that.
We’re in this for God. You’re servants of those who need Jesus the most. You’ll give it all you have and receive so much more in return. No, it isn’t a ride in the park. But, there’s more joy in serving Messiah than in anything else you can choose to do.
So, think hard, Peter. Who do you say that I am? A warrior of prosperity or a fulfiller life and success or any number of worldly things will only bring temporary satisfaction?
Eternal life in the now is so much more than this.
Get behind me Satan. Either get out of my sight or get in line and follow me. What God has to offer is life. Honest life; authentic life.
What God has to offer is so great that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ.
All glory and honor be to God.