Like the Pharisees Peter saw the issue of Christ's identity in man-centred terms. To follow Jesus means to deny our own interests and to prioritize His interests.
Scripture: Mark 8:22-9:1
- This passage is at the half-way point through Mark’s gospel, and brings us to a moment of reckoning concerning Jesus’ identity.
- The gospel continues to explain the significance of who Jesus is; the gospels remind us that we should always be seeking to understand more deeply that Jesus came as the anointed one, the Son of God, and this is one of Mark’s key purposes throughout the gospel (cf. Mark 1:1, 11; 2:10, 28; 3:11; 5:7; 6:3, so far).
- The Jews expected in the Messiah a king who would deliver them from the oppression of the pagan Romans.
- The common Roman understanding of “Son of God” was that of a great hero, like Caesar, who leads the people and establishes justice and peace in the world.
- Many people thought that Jesus was Elijah or John the Baptist (Mk. 8:28). These answers are two variations on the common belief that Jesus was another forerunner to the Messiah.
- Asked “who do you say I am?,” Peter is technically correct when he says that Jesus is the Christ. But he has a deceived, satanic understanding of what that title means, prompting Jesus’ response, “Get behind me Satan.”
- Jesus tells Peter that the Son of God must suffer many things and be killed, shattering the implicit pagan notion about the Son of God. At this point in the gospel the cross comes into focus.
- The disciples are on the way to Jerusalem. As they come to Jerusalem, they are able to identify who Christ is.
- With the cross in view, we are able to understand who Christ is, and who we are as followers of Christ. We are to deny ourselves take up our cross and follow Jesus (Mk. 8:34).
- Christ call us to personally confess our faith in who He is. Who do I say Jesus is?
- Jesus forbids the disciples to spread the word that He is the Christ, for they would only spread their wrong idea about who the Christ would be.
- Many, including some of the disciples, hoped that the Messiah would overthrow the Romans and establish the kingdom in Israel.
- The leaven of Herod and the Pharisees had affected the expectations of the disciples. The Pharisees wanted to make the whole nation ritually pure in order to receive the kingdom of God. Jesus’ association with uncleanness conflicted with their agenda (Mk. 8:15).
- There is a temptation to self-righteousness and pride in being on Jesus’ side against the oppressive Romans. Peter and the others may have been thinking that finally God’s judgment on the gentiles was coming.
- Jesus gives them the antidote to the leaven of the Pharisees. The answer is to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.
- All the grand symbols of the pagan empire were in view, including Roman crosses with their victims; in this context the disciples were told to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus.
- To follow Jesus means to deny our own interests and to prioritize His interests.
- Jesus reminds us that He is with us to the end of the age.
- What were some contemporary misconceptions about Jesus’ kingdom?
- How does Jesus correct the disciples misconceptions?
- Are we willing to be ashamed and humiliated as we stand up and identify with Jesus in His suffering and death?
- The leaven of self-interest can colour our plans for 2017; evaluate the content of your prayer life and your resolutions for 2017.