Yesterday we looked at the Gospel reading for the 2nd Sunday in Lent (Series B). This text is critical in the development of Mark’s Gospel, in the ministry of Jesus, and in the direction for the disciples of Jesus. The confession of Peter “You are the Messiah” (8:29) ends the first half of Mark’s Gospel and points ahead to the other great confession near the end, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (15:39).
The disciples had seen a lot—Jesus teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons, stilling the storm, feeding 5,000. Yes, indeed, their eyes had been opened to the fact that Jesus was not just another Galilean Jew. They mingled with the crowds. They had heard the rumors about who they thought Jesus was. Jesus even asks the disciples: “Who do people say that I am?”(8:27).
But now the critical part: it doesn’t really matter what the crowds thought, it matters what these men thought. Jesus continues “But who do you say that I am?”(8:29). Peter speaks for the group, after all, they had probably been dialoguing among themselves about who Jesus was. Peter says: “You are the Messiah.”
They knew that Jesus was more than just a prophet. His actions, His words, His concern for people, all pointed to someone greater. And who could that be? The Messiah. Peter’s confession was right on target.
Have you made that confession, that Jesus is the Messiah? Peter later spoke in Acts about this: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Confessing Jesus is critical.
But Peter’s confession of Jesus is inadequate as the next scene unfolds.
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly. (8:31-32a)
This is a far different scenario than most thought the Messiah would take, including Peter. We can almost hear him say in his rebuke, “Wait a minute, Jesus! When I confessed that You are the Messiah, I had in mind the continued glory of healing, casting out demons, and now we expect the Messiah to kick some Roman butt. But not this! Not suffering, rejection, not death! Never!!! That is not what I meant when I said ‘You are the Messiah’!”
Now Jesus rebukes Peter in front of the other disciples. Peter’s confession was correct but not complete. By offering only his own version of who the Messiah was and what He would do. It is no accident that Jesus was aware of their faulty understanding—He “rebuked” (same word in v. 30 as in v. 32 and 33) them, “to tell no one about Him” (8:30). They didn’t know all that needed to be revealed. They needed to see the path He was on, a path toward the betrayal, denial, flogging, mocking, crucifixion, and death—and coming back to life!
How are we doing with our understanding of who Jesus is? We can walk side by side with Him like the disciples did. But we can grow in our understanding of who He is and what He has done by studying the Bible. How is your intake of God’s Word. Was a “confession of faith” as a teen confirmand sufficient? How are you growing in your knowledge of Jesus? Personal reading of the Bible, regular worship, regular Bible study within the church? Is your confession similar to Peter’s in Mark 8 or more like it is in Acts 4:12?
Jesus finally confronts them with the reality of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. What is their commitment? Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (8:34). Notice now that Jesus will go to the cross to suffer, and the disciples will be people of the cross, too. I am sure they began trying to digest exactly what that meant. “It’s bad enough that Jesus will be killed, but is He meaning us, too? This started so well, now look where it leads.”
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ involves commitment, total commitment. Ultimately it means total commitment wherever we live, whatever we do. If we think we can save our lives by doing something, earning something, etc., we will in fact lose our lives.
Where is out commitment? Have we committed to follow Jesus wherever and whenever? Have we set limits on our commitment?
The real beauty of this passage is that Jesus makes a perfect confession: “I love you and I will die for you, sinners” (Romans 5:8). He threw caution to the wind, and fulfilled His work as Messiah, “for you.” And Jesus makes the commitment to us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
Sounds like the kind of Messiah I want to confess!