HG082-83 Mark 8.27-38, Matthew 16:13-27
27 Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?” 28 So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” 30 Then He strictly warned them that they should 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 chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” 34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires 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 will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or 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, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
So many opinions; So many views about Jesus from family, friends and foes. Clear thinking about who is Jesus seemed to be hidden from anyone who came into contact with Him. A secret was about to be revealed; a secret we have had inside knowledge on from the very first verse of Mark but those in the text were completely oblivious to. There has been a air of suspense as we approached the central verses of Mark, which also happens to be the centre point of Mark’s gospel. Finally one of the disciples wakes up to the reality that right in the midst of them was one who had long been promised.
You are in front of a load of kids and you are teaching them, doesn’t matter what subject but say you are teaching multiplication tables and you ask what is 12 times 12 and you get a show of hands ‘me, me, me!’ You know this routine because it happens every day in your classroom. You also know it is the same hands that go up every time. You know which ones are simply seeking attention, you know the ones who barely know the answer; you know the ones who think that they know the answer to everything, and on some occasions you get a surprise hand go up from one of the quieter pupils who will give you the right answer every time.
Peter was always one to offer his opinion, he was the ‘me, me, me’ pupil, never shy in thinking that he is right. What was surprising was that in answer to the question primed by Jesus to get them thinking about who He was, first by asking what others say of Him, but then, more crucially; ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter with the right answer. That’s right! Jesus IS the Messiah. Finally one of them had cottoned on. Mark declared it in the first verse of his gospel: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Bravo, Peter! Peter must have been brimming with pride – in Matthew 16 we find Jesus praising him for getting it right for it had been revealed to Peter by God himself. Did Peter suddenly get filled with pride? Is that what happened? Did he now think himself to be the fount of all knowledge? It must be the case because no sooner had he got it right he got it so disastrously wrong! How is it possible for a man to have something revealed to him by God then be used as a tool of the devil? It just doesn’t seem plausible.
I think the key is in what we do with praise. We can receive praise and respond in different ways. We can receive praise and want nothing to do with it thereby making it like it had never been said. We can receive praise and say thank you and then try to deflect it to the one who gave us the ability which almost always strikes me as a little disingenuous for it tries to make you seem good and therefore worthy of more praise - the heart may be right but it does not seem possible to practically do. When we receive praise, I have found the best way to deal with it is to simply say; thank you. But then we can receive praise and get puffed up like a peacock and of the different responses this is the most vulnerable. We suddenly think we know it all and are ready to exercise our right to speak into every situation. People who can speak godly things one moment can speak devilish things the next. Probably very true of ministers.
Satan inhabited Peter for that moment of madness because pride is of the devil. It is the thing that led to his downfall and it is the root problem in our lives. Poor Peter! One moment he has great success and in the next such a dismal failure. Pride does not leave room for others or for true knowledge or wisdom. It is says ‘I know best, I know what I’m talking about, I have nothing to learn from you’. I, I, I. p.r.I.d.e..
We are so puny compared to God. The knowledge that we have is miniscule. What we think we know we actually do not REALLY know at all. God knows everything. We know nothing at all. He has perfect knowledge and the wisdom. God must laugh from Heaven at the ridiculousness of humans. That is why Paul came to the conclusion that true knowledge is in knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified. Everything else is vanity – everything else is worthless.
Let us be careful to not find ourselves in opposition to God because God opposes the proud (James 5.6, 1 Pet 5.5) but gives grace to the humble. You think you are called by God to great things – wonder at amazement about it but do not think for one second it is because you are worthy. Are you blessed with spiritual gifts? Are you blessed materially? Do you think God gives you these things as a reward? No, it is not true. How do we account for those Christians who are far more spiritual than us in Africa and Asia, who put their lives on the line for Christ yet are in poverty? God does not give you things to crown you with glory before people. If you have anything at all it is for the glory of God and the building up of the body of Christ so be thankful for what you have. Worthiness comes from being accepted in the beloved. He loves us. Now we are worthy because the ultimate price has been paid for us.
Peter got it wrong because he had imperfect knowledge. He thought that the Messiah was going to come with political power and put down the Roman occupying forces and then King Jesus will reign. He could not cope with a suffering Messiah – No! It cannot be! No Jesus! Not realising that if Jesus is the Messiah like he thought and said he was then He would actually know best but now Peter was acting as his royal adviser!
On the one hand Peter gets it right but pride and wrong doctrine makes him get it wrong. And we have to be careful not to fall into this trap; there is right doctrine and wrong and false doctrine…we are only human so not one of us has got perfect doctrine. Let’s make sure pride is not a reason for not correcting our thinking.
But Peter’s declaration of Jesus as the Christ is
the turning point of the Gospel and from it all events move toward Jerusalem, the betrayal, the whipping post, and the bloody Cross.
Jesus laid it out in plain language.
A Messiah who is rejected, suffers and dies is not the kind of Messiah Peter had signed up to following. Not only that but Jesus used that word ‘must’; Jesus must suffer. It is necessary for Jesus to suffer. How can anyone stomach that?
There is a move which used to be only among liberals but now among so-called evangelicals, including many prominent baptists, to say that Jesus was just an example of love and sacrifice. But do we really think that Jesus suffering in such a way was just to show us what love is? Surely He could have done this by healing people and preaching a message of love, oh, wait, He did this already!
No, the cross was absolutely necessary to atone for our sin. Jesus was the lamb sacrificed for us. Horrendous as that sounds if there had been some other way to save us it would have been taken. That’s why the cross is offensive to people even today. But Jesus would not go through what He went through just to show us love. But, it is, of course, the greatest demonstration of love ever shown.
And through the candid language of Jesus Peter still missed the bit about rising from the dead in 3 days. Knowledge is seemingly hidden from the disciples though it was as plain as it could be. This is often the case when someone is entrenched in a wrong doctrine and just cannot see what seems obvious, especially to us, the reader.
Then Jesus goes on to say what the cost of following Him is. Is there anything that it could cost us that it did not cost Jesus more? Jesus made himself of no reputation; He made no room for pride and He calls us to the same ‘no reputation’, to lay down one’s life to follow Jesus. What good is life if this life is all there is, and if the biggest thing you can gain is the world by working day and night? What is the size of the world in comparison to the universe that is held in God’s hand as an insignificant speck of dust? Is there a point in working to gain material things in this life that have to be replaced or repaired in a few years time?
I was watching Inspector Morse in the week and there was a Citroen 2CV on it which were all the rage when I was young. How ridiculous it seems looking back on it. People work hard to gain things. And those things that are new now will appear to be outdated in ten plus years if not less. Is there a point in gaining what is in your own little world only to die in a few years time? What we gain in this world is so ludicrously small and yet we work a lifetime gaining things that will not be of any use to us when we die or for those to whom we leave them.
There has to be a better way. Verses that are precious to me:
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
What will we give our lives for? Will we be ashamed for wasting our lives on things that will be burned up by the fire? To live for ourselves is a sinful thing to do; it proves we are ashamed of the words of Jesus; it proves we are ashamed of his words because we are not willing to live and die by them. Are we Christians only in name?
When you are young you don’t say "I know everything” but you act in that way. As you get older you begin to realise that you know nothing at all. We realise this more when the troubles of life come and we cannot answer the question; ‘Why?’ We can give possible answers but we cannot guarantee being right. But there is a knowledge worth attaining and that is to know Jesus, to live by his words.
What is the answer to His question; ‘Who do you say I am?’? It is to provoke a response from us. So what do you say?
He was a good man? He had good things to say? He is God in the flesh? He is my Saviour? He’s worth giving up a Sunday for? He’s worth giving up your life for?
If we read all of Isaiah 55 we will also find that His thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways not our ways so we are to seek Him; we are to do those things in this life that will have eternal value; sow the Word of God and we will not be disappointed with the results, and then we will enter into eternal joy unashamed before the face of Jesus.
The criticism of Peter was that he first had the mind of God but quickly exchanged it for the mind of men. It was satanic.
The ways of God’s kingdom are different but we all seem to enjoy too much of being in another Kingdom – the one that belongs to this world. We cannot get the ways of God if we are all too willing to be influenced by the ways of this world. The mind of God and the mind of men are opposites.
Once we are convinced of who Jesus is then it is incumbent upon us to take this message to others. How do we address the people of Manselton and Swansea today and convince them who Jesus is? Will we make the event on Saturday with the kids go by without a mention to someone or not invite people to our Back to Church Sunday service in September? Let us be led by the Holy Spirit. Pray fervently. But above all, answer truthfully the question: Who do you say I am? And what does that now mean for you?
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Hughes, R. K. (1989). Mark: Jesus, servant and savior. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.