In the previous post, we did an exercise from Mark chapter 8 to clarify who Jesus really is and why that really matters. In this passage, Jesus asks His disciples who the people say He is, and they give an assortment of answers… Then He asks, “but who do YOU say that I am?” And Peter speaks up: “You are the Messiah.”
Peter answers from his heart, and incidentally, his heart answer was correct. Jesus IS the Messiah! But Peter and the disciples didn’t really know what all that meant. They each had their own ideas as to who God’s Messiah would be, what God’s Messiah would do for the people, and how He would go about doing it.
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.” 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. -Mark 8:27-31
Ever the teacher, Jesus does not waste this special moment of realness with Peter and the disciples. Jesus has just had a breakthrough with Peter. Now Jesus capitalizes on the moment to explain to them what the Messiah would really do.
But Jesus’ response apparently offends Peter…
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. -Mark 8:31-32
“No, no, no – Jesus! What are you saying? Stop this. You’re talking nonsense! You are the Messiah – God’s Anointed One – sent to bring deliverance to God’s people! You mustn’t talk about persecution and death like this! It’s unbecoming of God’s Anointed, and besides that, you’re freaking us out a little bit. Look over there: Bartholomew is terrified!”
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.” -Mark 8:31-33
Did you notice where Jesus looked after Peter rebuked Him? It says, “But turning and looking at his disciples…” This is an absolutely critical moment. Jesus has just for the first time welled-up the courage to explain the journey that He must take as the Messiah. For Him, even speaking it into existence now for the first time has made it more real than it was before. Yes, Jesus was fully God – but He was also fully human. And here, the fully human Jesus has just for the first time spoken what His fully human self would have to undergo as Messiah.
And Peter says, “No way!” Jesus cannot afford to let this moment slip.
This is a crisis moment for the human Jesus – one of His first big opportunities to turn away from God’s purpose on His life. If He agrees with Peter – affirming Peter’s rebuke – or even if He just ignores it – Jesus would be allowing the mettle of His commitment to obey God’s call to be shaken and weakened.
Jesus can also see it in the faces of His disciples. They must be thinking: “What exactly IS the role of the Messiah, anyway?” They all have their own ideas, but Jesus’ talk of persecution, suffering, death – it doesn’t fit into any of their boxes…
No, Jesus cannot let this moment slide. He must speak up against the well-meaning rebuke of Peter – for Peter’s sake, for the sake of His disciples, even for Jesus’ own sake! He must speak up.
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.” -Mark 8:33
WOW! Satan? Really!? Did Jesus just call Peter ‘Satan’?! Why!?
Jesus has just declared the true role of the Messiah aloud for the first time. Upon the hearing of this, Peter says, “C’mon, Jesus. Don’t say that. Is the Messiah really supposed to suffer and die? That doesn’t sound like God…”
You may recall another time in the Bible where God’s motives and purposes were questioned in similar fashion – and by whom.
In Genesis chapter 3, Satan comes to Eve as a serpent and asks her, “C’mon – really? Did God really say you would die if you ate that fruit? C’mon – that doesn’t sound like Him, does it? Surely, that’s not what He said, right?” The impact of Adam & Eve’s sin was enormous – all of mankind was cursed through it.
The magnitude of this temptation of Jesus in this moment is immeasurable. The power of doubt – specifically doubting God’s motives – God’s goodness. If Jesus caves here, it will be worse for mankind than the fall of Adam and Eve was. Jesus must stand strong in this critical moment. The fate of humanity rides on how Jesus’ will deal with this attack on His trust of God’s goodness.
In the next post, we will see how Jesus translates this – His true identity and fate as Messiah – into OUR true identity and fate as His followers (disciples).