31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
(Mark 8:31-33 NIV)
In the previous passage, we saw Jesus and His disciples traveling throughout Caesarea Philippi, ministering in the villages. As they walked along, Jesus asked His disciples who people said He was. The disciples responded with the usual answers – a prophet like the prophets of old, or Elijah, or John the Baptist. Then Jesus asked a more pointed question – who do they think He is? Peter responds: “You are the Messiah.”
In this simple declaration, Peter says far more than he knows.
In today’s passage, Jesus begins talking openly about what it means to be Messiah. Even though Jesus had been dropping hints and demonstrating His divine authority, the disciples were totally unprepared for Jesus’ candid revelations.
Jewish tradition and folklore painted the picture of Messiah as conquering hero, ushering in God as King, throwing off human rule and setting Israel free forever. They cited Scripture from the prophets of old that promised God would one day intervene in the affairs of men, conquer evil, and set up His kingdom forever.
As we look at the Jewish mindset of Messiah versus Jesus’ proclamations, we see the stark contrast and understand why the disciples would mentally shut down. Jesus was talking about suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection – a suffering servant, not a conquering hero. How could this be? Since they were tiny children sitting on their grandfather’s knee, the disciples had been taught about Messiah according to Scriptures and Jewish tradition.
This was too much for Peter. He pulled Jesus aside and tells Jesus that this simply can’t be – it goes against everything that they have been taught. Peter is not about to let all these terrible things happen to his best friend. Peter desperately wanted to hang on to the mythical stories of Messiah, not deal with the realities of what Jesus was saying.
While Peter’s words and concern were well-meaning and sincere, they were dead wrong. Jesus turns the tables on Peter, rebukes him, and calls him “Satan”. To Jesus, Peter’s words were a throwback to His temptation in the wilderness by Satan himself. Jesus experienced human feelings just like any of us. If Jesus could choose, He would not suffer and die, yet He knew He must obey His Father. Jesus knew He must fulfill the Father’s plan to offer salvation and eternal life for all mankind across all generations, regardless of the personal cost to Himself.
As we look at this today’s text, let’s apply this passage by stepping into the two roles represented by Jesus and Peter.
As we step into Jesus’ role, how many times have well-meaning friends or family members tried to dissuade us from following the Lord by their words or actions? They encourage us to be safe, or tell us we deserve better than what we have now. They even offer us comfort and convenience to help us with our decision. How willing are we to follow the Lord, even if we clearly see the risk and pain involved with our choice? What is our price to cave in, sell out, and live for ourselves versus follow the Lord?
As we step into Peter’s role, have we ever been the one offering well-meaning advice or words of warning to those who have been called by God? Do we offer “common sense” as an alternative to Divine calling, or emotional pleas versus the Holy Spirit’s direction? Do we want to influence or control the lives of others, or are we willing to let God be God and pray for them to be obedient instead? Are we willing to encourage them fo follow the Lord, regardless of the personal cost to us?
In the next section, Jesus will tell His disciples, the crowd that has gathered, and us what it means to follow and obey Him.
May we follow the Lord’s calling for us regardless of the cost.
May we also encourage others to do the same.