27: “Who do people say that I am?” – This question to the disciples was more than a public opinion survey. Jesus wanted to take His followers from this stage of pondering they had been experiencing into a level of deeper understanding.
29-30: “‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ And He sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about Him.” Peter may have been beginning to understand who Jesus was but there were more lessons to be taught before Peter’s statement and the commitment needed behind that statement could be fully understood.
31: “Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering…” – Jesus moves away from His favorite teaching technique, the parable, to tell this story in straight language so that there is no misunderstanding. He is going to be killed but he will “rise again.”
33: “He rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” – Peter had voiced an objection to the plan. He proposed a different tactic. But Jesus recognized the similarity of Peter’s words to His experience with Satan in the wilderness; an offer of power and glory.
34: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” – Deny their visions of greatness? Carry a cross of rejection and ridicule? Follow even when it leads to death?
35: “For those who want to save their life will lose it…” – Eternity is at stake. Jesus says that if they remain self-absorbed that they will not understand the glory that is being offered.
38: “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed.” – Of which generation do you think Jesus speaks?
Points to Contemplate:
Can you relate to Peter?
He is gaining excitement about being on the “winning” team when Jesus announces that defeat and death is on the horizon. What would be your reaction to such news? Do you recognize our human tendency, exhibited by Peter, to filter information based on what is good for us? How “we” are to be affected? Jesus says that those who are to become His followers must “deny themselves.” Can you deny yourself? Can you set aside your feelings of self-importance and self-righteousness in order to follow Christ?
Peter voiced an objection and Jesus responds by calling him Satan. Does this seem a bit harsh? Is it possible that Satan could actually have been using one of Jesus’ most trusted and loved disciples? Just a few verses earlier, Peter had proven his understanding of who Jesus represented. He was the star pupil. Does this illustrate that we are all susceptible to Satan’s guile? How do we counteract Satan’s influence in our lives? How do we learn to recognize when the decisions we make and the things we say are opposite of God’s intent? Do all of these situations stem from lack of understanding and self-centering? Does this underscore the importance of regularly praying, studying God’s Word, and living a Christ-centered life?
What does it mean to “take up a cross” to follow Jesus? Does it mean we have to suffer? That we are not truly disciples of Christ unless we have been persecuted? Could it mean that we have a responsibility to alleviate pain and suffering in the world? Would our cross then be the burden of caring for others and lifting their pain and agony to Christ? Can you see that the phrases “deny yourself” and “carry your cross” are intimately linked together, that you can not do one without the other?
Are you trying to save your life? Is it yours to save? As you make choices in your daily life, as you are faced with decision after decision, are you focused on what is good for you or do you filter everything through what God is asking you to do? Do you recognize that each decision you face is an opportunity for God to transform you into the disciple He is calling you to be? Can you give your entire life over to Christ? Promises of the Gospel:
Jesus is not simply talking to a handful of disciples of an event that is about to take place in Jerusalem. Mark clearly wanted us, for generations to come, to understand that where we fail most as humans is in our inability to set our Self aside. We exalt ourselves in all things. Jesus us is saying, that in order to achieve the glory we are capable of achieving that we must deny ourselves and let God exalt us, instead. It means to give up trying to make something of ourselves on our own. In addition, we are to pick up our cross and follow Christ wherever He leads. “It is in our willingness to suffer whatever cross is laid on us with faith in the God who created us that we discover life.”1 We are created, not for a life of a few decades, but for a life eternal.
1Which Way To Jesus?, Harry N. Huxhold, CSS Publishing, Lima, Ohio, 1996, 0-7880-0793-9.