Who do people say that I am? It is the question that Jesus asks his disciples as they are going to villages of Caesarea Philippi in Mark 8:27. Who do people say that I am? Think about answering that question today. Who do people today say that Jesus is? I think we would get all kinds of different answers. Some would say that Jesus amounts to nothing more than a religious teacher. Some would say he is a good person like Ghandi or Mother Teresa. Some would say that he was a prophet. Even the answers about who Jesus is differs in the religious world. Mormons say Jesus is the product of a physical union between God and Mary. Jehovah’s Witnesses say Jesus is an exalted created being like Michael the archangel.
Who Do You Say That I Am? (8:27-30)
In Jesus’ day there were also many answers about who Jesus was. In Mark 8:28 the disciples of Jesus tell him that people say they think he is John the Baptizer, Elijah, or one of the prophets. There were a variety of thoughts and concepts about Jesus even in the first century. But now Jesus turns the question personal. “But who do you say that I am?” How would you answer this question? What is Jesus to your life? Who is Jesus to you? I want you think about how you would answer this question as we look at how the disciples of Jesus answered this question. Peter answers that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the anointed one. Jesus is the promised Savior from the line of David.
Whose Concerns? (8:31-33)
Now after Peter makes this confession on behalf of all of the disciples Jesus begins to teach them some important truths. Jesus teaches the disciples that the Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and after three days rise again (8:31). This is a stunning revelation. It is hard for us to understand how difficult it is to hear that message because as Christians we have accepted that message. But this is earth-shattering news. Jesus is the Christ and the Savior of the world is not going to suffer at the hands of these people, be rejected, and be killed. This simply cannot be! It seems impossible that freedom and life could come in any other way but by force and military victory. Notice that Jesus said it plainly. Jesus did not allude to the idea but just plainly says he is going to suffer and be killed. Jesus is complete control. This is what must happen.
Look at what Peter does in verse 32. “And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” Imagine what this looks like. Peter pulls Jesus aside and starts rebuking him. Peter is rebuking Jesus. Let that resonate in your mind for a moment. Peter is rebuking Jesus. Peter is telling Jesus that he is wrong. Peter is arguing with Jesus. Now think about what has just happened. Peter has just said that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the Savior of the world. Jesus is our master. Jesus is not just a prophet. Jesus is prophesied rescuer of the world. But now Peter is denying everything that he just confessed. You are the Lord but this cannot be true. It cannot be the way you are saying. Jesus, you are the Christ, but not when it comes to this topic. You have this wrong. This is not going to happen to you. Listen to Jesus’ response because it is shocking and sharp.
But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Mark 8:33 ESV)
Seeing his disciples seems to indicate that Peter is not the only one who is thinking this way. All of them believe Jesus is the Christ but what Jesus has just plainly taught cannot be correct. Jesus calls Peter, “the adversary” which is what the title “Satan” means. But listen to the position that Jesus says needs to happen. Peter, you need to get behind me. You are being a roadblock. You are being an adversary to Jesus. You need to stop being in front of Jesus and need to get behind Jesus. Stop telling Jesus the way things are going to be and start follow Jesus and the way he says things are going to be.
Now look carefully at the text. What is Peter’s downfall? Why does he make this mistake? What has he messed up? Look at verse 33. “For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” You have human concerns, not God’s concerns on your mind. You have human interests, not God’s interests on your mind. You are looking at things from a human point of view and not God’s point of view. Friends, this is the primary reason we fall. This is the primary reason why we fall short. This is how we get ahead of Jesus as a roadblock rather than behind Jesus: we are thinking about our things and not God’s things. We are thinking about ourselves and not God. We are thinking about life from our human perspective rather than from God’s perspective. We are living according to human concerns. Friends, this is when we defy God. This is when we argue with God. This is when we resist God. We are thinking about things from our knowledge and our human perspective and not God’s perspective.
The Requirements of Discipleship (8:34-9:1)
Jesus turns this moment into a teaching opportunity for the whole crowd in verse 34. This is such an important concept that Jesus does not just teach his twelve disciples but the whole crowd. Listen to what Jesus says in verses 34 through verse 1 of chapter 9.
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” (Mark 8:34–9:1 ESV)
Here is what it means to be a disciple: deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. To follow Jesus is far more than just identifying yourself as a Christian. Being a disciple means renouncing self and journeying with Jesus even to death. Denying self is renouncing control and claim on your life. We will reject our desires, ambitions, personal goals, and the like and submit to Jesus as his slave. It is the rejection of self-sufficiency. It is a denial of independence. Taking up the cross is the willingness to reject all for Christ. What Jesus says should be devastating if we are hearing it. To be a disciple means denying self. This is unheard of in our culture. To be a disciple means saying no to our desires. This is unheard of today. Say no to my desires, wants, wishes, and demands? Yes, this is what it means to be a disciple.
Listen to how Jesus tries to get us to understand this truth. You will lose your life if you try to save it. You will save your life if you lose it for Jesus and the gospel. What you do in this life means everything in regards to eternity. If your life is about right now and your concerns are human concerns, you are going to lose true life. If your life is about eternity and your concerns are God’s concerns, you are going to save your life. Now listen to what Jesus wants each of us to think about: what is the point of gaining in this life to only lose eternity? You can have everything in this world but you would still be left with nothing since this world is passing away and so are you! There is emptiness is trying to preserve your physical life. What a waste of time to try to gain this world because you will die and this world will pass away. What are you going to give for your soul (8:37)? What is the value of your eternal soul? There is no price tag worth exchanging for your soul. On the day of judgment, what are you going to give God for your soul? Are you going to give him all the money you have made or all the possessions you have acquired? What is the price for all eternity?
Please notice that saving your life and trying to gain this world is being ashamed of Jesus. We want this life and not Jesus. We are saying that we are ashamed of him. There are some good tests to see if we are ashamed of Jesus. Are we ashamed to tell people that we are a Christian? Are we ashamed to tell people that we love Jesus? Are we ashamed to put on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media that we love the Lord, are worshiping the Lord, and believe and follow Jesus? We want to preserve our reputation and what people think of us far too much. We care far too much what people think about us and our faith. Jesus says that he will not know us or recognize us if we do not recognize him before people. In fact, Jesus says in 9:1 that he was bringing the kingdom of God with power in their very lifespans. Some were standing there who were going to see the kingdom of God come with power, which we see happening just a few years later, as recorded for us in Acts 2. So there was an immediacy to the need of living for eternity because Jesus was proclaiming his kingdom and its powerful arrival was coming soon.
Who Do You Say That I Am?
I want to return to the question we began with at the start of the lesson. Who do you say Jesus is? What is Jesus to your life? Jesus shows us that merely saying that Jesus is the Christ is not enough. The reason we must carry a cross is because that is what it means to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. If we truly believe in who Jesus is, then the only response is submission to him. We must deny ourselves. We must put our ways and desires to death and follow Jesus. We cannot be like Peter and argue with Jesus. We cannot tell Jesus the way life is going to be. Far too often we want to create Jesus in our image. We want to make Jesus as the idol who makes us happy and financial successful. We want Jesus to make us comfortable as we follow him. We want to make Jesus support our political party, our political thinking, our charitable causes, ecological concerns, or our cultural goals. We try to make Jesus be what we want him to be in our lives. But Jesus will not allow this.
We must not set our minds on human concerns but on God’s concerns. A disciple of Jesus does not follow selfish concerns but God’s concerns. A disciple of Jesus sets one’s mind on God’s things and God’s ways. A disciple of Jesus does not live for this life. A disciple of Jesus does not set one’s concern on the physical. Rather, disciples of Jesus realize that their souls are everything and must live for life in eternity. A disciple is not concerned with what the world says and is not ashamed of Jesus and his words. Being a follower of Jesus does not mean being in front of Jesus. Being a follower of Jesus does not mean telling Jesus the way things are going to be. Being a follower of Jesus means submission to Jesus. That is who Jesus must be to us. Jesus is not a mere prophet or a good teacher. Jesus is the Lord, the Savior, and Christ. Therefore we deny ourselves to follow him. So let me end by asking: who is Jesus to you? Is Jesus the Lord, the Savior, and the Christ that you will follow? Or is Jesus something else and you live your life how you want and tell him how life should be? Do not lose your soul. Do not lose eternity. There is no lasting gain in this life but with Jesus you have all of eternal life. Unfortunately, many do not choose the right answer when asked, “Who is Jesus to you?”