You think you know who Jesus is? I think this passage might help you on your journey of faith. This is my manuscript of a sermon I preached at HVBC, to our paradigm crowd. My aim is to teach you about Jesus, and I also want to follow Peter’s story to see his perspective. A goal of mine is to avoid what is trite, so that my audience’s conversation will not just default back into TV and sports or whatever you are used to. I want to change that habit, at least for today, and at least when we are looking at clear, straight-forward Scripture that if engaged through the mind and heart can change our lives. Let’s first catch the context of our text before we jump into the Word, which will be Mark 8:27-
Throughout Mark we have seen a few explicit major themes. Jesus has shown how he has authority, and claimed the title of God. The disciples are still not getting it, in the sense that they can’t understand who Jesus is actually claiming to be. Jesus is finally throwing it in their faces in the early part of chapter 8. The context leading up to this passage is Jesus healing a blind man. This blind man doesn’t see everything right off the bat, everything is blurry. Jesus then heals him a second time, and He sees everything clearly afterward. Now into mark 8:27-9:13…
Let us start at Peter’s point of view throughout this story. First, Jesus asks, “who do other people say that I am?” and they answered with several suggestion, like Elijah, John the Baptist, or one of the prophets. Then he asks the question in a more pointed way, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter being somewhat a lead character says, “you are the Christ.” Jesus then jumps straight into teaching them that the Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected and killed and rise three days later. This thought is not compatible with the “Jesus” that Peter knows. Peter has a false image of Jesus. Peter tries to rebuke Jesus, and it doesn’t really pan out like he expects. Jesus looks at the disciples, not wanting them to be deceived, so he harshly rebukes Peter by calling him Satan. And points out that he isn’t thinking of what is true and godly, but rather what is worldly. It is probable that Peter was picturing Jesus as a military leader. It seems like Peter is picturing Jesus as someone who will conquer with force like in the Second Coming. From outside historical records we can see that this was very common thought in the days surrounding Jesus. So Peter’s faults are shown in this interaction, and if Peter, as one of Jesus’ right hand men, had a false perception of who Jesus was, what are the chances that we have got Jesus’ character pinned?
Let us look at what Jesus was trying to teach. It starts with a loaded question. Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” I think a focus here is to know the real Jesus. So, who do you say that Jesus is? Peter said that he was the Christ; pretty good answer right? There are a bunch of us that have done this, and we’ve decided to serve the Christ and declare that Jesus is the Christ. This is only one of stages of faith similar to what we have seen already in the blind man narrative from Mark 8:22-26. But this isn’t even near the “the full, clear picture.” We are still seeing everything blurry. If we look at Jesus’ response to Peter’s answer we get a good feel for what we have to learn next. So why doesn’t Jesus congratulate him on his correct answer? He tells them ‘strictly’ not to tell anyone. Peter has this huge assumption of who Jesus is and who the ‘Christ’ is, like a huge ‘conquering Christ’ type of character. Jesus saw this and immediately starts teaching them that he’s going to be rejected, killed, and rise again. Peter doesn’t like this at all. When he thinks ‘Christ’ he isn’t thinking of the Gospel plan or the True Jesus. He is following an image of Jesus, his image, not the real one. And maybe some of us are on this stage of our faith, following Jesus, but not the legit Jesus. This is a time for some reflection on your own thoughts, when you think Jesus, are you thinking of one who will be rejected and killed for our sakes, or just another person telling us what to do. So Peter pulls Jesus aside to try to rebuke him. Jesus doesn’t allow this. He flat out says “get behind me Satan!” A part of Jesus’ motive for rebuking Peter in this way was for the care of the disciples; he couldn’t allow his disciples to be confused about this. He also couldn’t let Peter be like Satan and lead His people away from the Gospel, or in other words be an adversary to the True Jesus. It was crucial for the disciples to see the true identity of Jesus: the suffering servant who would be rejected, killed and resurrected, so that they could have true life.
The passage pulls us into the second main focus, 34-35, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the Gospel’s will save it.” This is kind of a big deal. Let us think about this. I’ve been getting destroyed by thinking about this… and I don’t even think that I have been thinking and applying this enough. Jesus is making a radical statement. Die for me, or live to die. Let this one sink in, because if you want to follow the real Christ, not just an image of Christ that you’ve made, you have to DENY YOURSELF. You have to be ready to die for Christ. Jesus is demanding and jealous. All or nothing, die for me and live, or live it up just to die in the end. Take up your cross and follow me to death. Are you seriously ok with giving up everything for the Son of Man? This is something real that you have to figure out. Think about this reality. If your mind is set on the real nature of the Christ, you know if you are being radical like Jesus asks. Know this however: if you are ashamed of THIS Christ; the Christ who asks EVERYTHING of you, Jesus will be ashamed of you before the Father, when he is in his glory. It might sound harsh, but isn’t it in the least equal treatment? A man dies for you and you are ashamed of him for it? You might as well have spit in his face.
Now we could stop there, however, the passage stays on point. The transfiguration happens next. After a few days, Jesus takes a few of his disciples up on a mountain. He goes all glory-like in front of them and Elijah and Moses appear. Peter is still acting a fool, not getting it, asking if he can make tents for them, probably wanting them to stay to be a part of the military force. Then something ridiculously awesome happens. God comes in a cloud and says, “This is my beloved son, listen to him.” If you’re like me, you’re thinking WHAT IS GOING ON? Let’s step back to the start. Who do you say Jesus is? Let us step back to the first main focus. He’s is the one who suffered and died for us, He is the one who says we must deny ourselves for the Gospel’s sake. He is the one who is called the Son of God, which is basically saying, that he is God Himself. Mark is showing us who Jesus really is by putting two drastic sides of his character next to each other: The God of glory and the man that suffered for us. This is the God Christians serve.
Now let us look back to the last five verses. A part of this is to maintain the continuity of the story, and to record Jesus telling the disciples to not speak of what happened until he has risen from the dead. It seems like Jesus is being very blunt about this whole, dying on the cross and rising from the dead thing. Peter, James and John start thinking about what rising from the dead might mean, not thinking that Jesus is actually going to die. Then they ask, “Jesus, why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus probably blows their mind when he says, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And yet how is it written of the son of man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him as they pleased, as it is written of him.” I think this statement is meant to take us back to Mark 6, where it showed John the Baptist as a fore shadow to Jesus. Incredibly, we are now to be the post-shadow of Christ. A Christian’s life is to follow in the Christ’s footsteps. In other words we should be denying ourselves, and dying for the sake of the Gospel like Jesus did. This is actually a harder and different challenge. It isn’t just die for the sake of Christ, it is to be a representative of Christ. To be like Jesus in every way, like how he healed the sick, brought hope to the spiritually dying, having an authority over demons and life and death and sickness and health. This is a mighty task; a task that in most cases would be given to a son by his father. So by all means, deny yourself, and gain far more than you ever could have. Take on the responsibilities of being Jesus’ rep. I promise, it’s worth losing everything else.
Back to the start; who do you say that Jesus is? This question starts this entire passage. And the grand conclusion is this: How you know Jesus will define how you serve Him. We saw that he was a savior that died for us, and the appropriate response is to give our lives. We saw that Jesus is the true God, and our response is to listen to the words he says and serve him in the way he asks, as he is our creator. It just makes sense to serve him whole heartedly.