There are a few movements in this passage so instead of me putting the scriptures in, please follow the link and have another window open so you can read the sections as we go.
Movement 1: 8:27-30…
Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is and Peter answers for them (correctly I might add) that he is the Christ – the Messiah of God.
Movement 2: 8:31-33…
Jesus then teaches his disciples that it is necessary for him to suffer, be rejected, killed, and raised from the dead. At this point Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him but Jesus looks at the disciples and then rebukes Peter; calling him Satan and commanding him to get behind him.
What just happened? Why did it go from a very high point of Peter rightly identifying Jesus as the Christ to a very low point of Jesus calling Peter Satan?
What happened here was that the disciples correctly identified Jesus as God’s Christ: the Jews had been waiting a thousand years for the Christ of God to come. In much the same way the Church of Jesus is waiting for him to return just as the Jews had been waiting for the Christ to come to Israel. And just as the church has a very detailed orthodox theology and doctrine of what exactly will and will not happen and when Jesus returns, so also the Jews had a very detailed theology of what the Christ would and wouldn’t be when he arrived. And according to Jewish theology, the Christ would not be is a suffering servant who was rejected by the bigshots of Judaism and then prematurely die. And so Peter had to take Jesus aside and remind him of the “good biblical teaching” that the Israelites had developed over the previous thousand years or so.
“Get behind me Satan, for you don’t have the mind of God but the mind of men.” Jesus erupted.
The Greek word that is translated “the mind” is actually used twice in this verse and is better translated as “understanding”. For Peter, in this instance, did not have the “understanding” of God when it came to the Christ but rather he had the “understanding” of the men of Israel and their best study of the scriptures and their interpretations of the Christ. I can only imagine that if Jack VanImpe, Tim Lahaye, and Jerry Jenkins told Jesus what was going to happen when he returned, they too might be called Satan and told to sit at the back of the class.
We are all like Peter too. We may have rightly identified Jesus as our redeemer who died on the cross for us and resurrected from the dead on the third day, but then we adopt very specific and detailed biblically derived opinions and theologies based on our best studies. Too often I have caught myself explaining to God how he is supposed to act in a situation or what he is supposed to do. I am afraid that I am too often sitting with Peter behind our Lord.
Movement 3: 8:34 – 9:1…
Jesus then calls everyone together and explains to them how suffering and sacrifice is the only way to be his disciple. The Jews had a very health-and-wealth theology about the Christ but now Jesus is kicking that understanding of Israel being restored and put again in a place of political power again out of their minds.
This must have been a huge shock to them for everything they had ever learned about the coming of the Christ was about how good it would be for Israel to not be under the rule of Rome or any other foreign governments. They had a very utopian ideal in their thinking and Jesus here was kicking it to the curb.
In this section of Mark’s Gospel you and I learn WHO Jesus is and WHAT he expects from us: personal sacrifice for others for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel message.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
I think about the success of some Christian ministries in the American arena and I wonder if they would know such success if they preached this message of self-sacrifice. Somehow I doubt it; but this is the message that Jesus preached.
Certainly faith in Jesus brings grants us forgiveness of sin and gives us life-eternal with the Father in heaven when we die, but that is a future event. Jesus is here pointing out the now of being and living as a Christian: we are to willingly surrender our earthly lives for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel in the service of others. It’s a Kingdom mentality.
And honestly, the calling to follow Jesus is a noble calling indeed but one that most of us find difficult to accept.