We are sharing a series of posts that will coincide through our Community Group study in the book of Mark. We created a free reading guide that outlines a plan for studying the book in its entirety. Find this free guide here, and join the conversation in the Community Group here.
A Glimpse at Our Savior
The book of Mark is chock-full of rich doctrine focused on Christ. Distinctive from the other gospels, this book provides a deeper and more detailed glimpse of our Savior’s humanity. Through the Holy Spirit-inspired writings of John Mark, we get a close-up encounter with our Savior and come to know Him as the Servant who suffered for the sake of believers past, present, and future.
Mark 8:27–35 is a passage that recounts how the disciples realize the preeminence of Christ—His superiority and supremacy. Christ teaches and reshapes the disciples’ understanding of His messianic status and how this specifically impacts them. Imagine finally standing face to face with the promised king that you’ve been eagerly expecting all your life, only to have your enthusiasm (and perhaps relief) quickly snuffed out by a grim and certain prognosis of what is to come. This is exactly what the disciples experienced.
The disciples assumed that Christ’s kingship would result in a conquest where immediate results could be seen, and their king would walk away completely unscathed in victory. However, Christ wasted no time bringing the disciples back to a reality that was God-ordained and sure to come to pass. We quickly notice as we examine this passage that Christ’s words are also a timely reminder for us. In the midst of all chaos in our world today, we must remember to keep our gazes fixed on our eternal King.
CHRIST IS CONFESSED
And 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?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. (Mark 8:27–30)
In most cases, as Jesus journeyed with His disciples, they’d be asking Him a litany of questions. However, on this particular day we see the opposite as Jesus was the one asking the questions. Jesus began by probing the disciples with a question: “Who do people say that I am?” And then another question: “But who do you say that I am?” The juxtaposition in this line of questioning was meant to challenge the disciples and prompt them to express their own understanding of Jesus. The disciples were nearly forced to take a hardline position on stating who He is rather than hiding behind public perception and opinion.1
Up to this point, Jesus had performed countless miracles and good works to clearly illustrate that He was, in fact, the Messiah. Yet, many still failed to recognize Him as the Christ (v. 28). Fortunately, this was not the case for the disciples. They knew that Jesus was the Christ, but they had not come to a full understanding of what that entailed.
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 said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 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 8:31–33)
Christ wasted no time informing the disciples what it truly means that He is the Messiah. In verse 31 Jesus highlighted four specific things crucial to His role as the Messiah: 1) Suffering, 2) Rejection, 3) Death, and 4) Resurrection. Of course, this does not sound like the life of a king, and these words were simply not what the disciples expected to hear.
Peter stepped in to confront Christ with a stern rebuke, but quickly found himself (as well as the remaining disciples) met with a chiding from the Messiah. Christ’s rebuke is even more astounding because He specifically calls Peter “Satan.” Jesus’ words beg the question: Why was Peter met with such seemingly harsh words? What made his approach to Christ so wrong?
“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’” (v. 33). Peter’s sin here is plain. His rebuke to Christ was rooted in a selfish carnality that stood in direct opposition to the workings of God. Peter’s remarks reflected a heart that wanted a king who would be more of a political liberator than an eternal savior. He wanted a king who would not experience pain or suffering. Ironically, isn’t that exactly how Satan tried to tempt Jesus? By promising Him kingship apart from the suffering and death that God had ordained before the foundations of the world (Luke 4:1–14; Matthew 4:1–11; Mark 1:11–13)? God’s plan needed to unfold according to His will. There could be no salvation without suffering, and no crown without the cross.
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?” (Mark 8:34-36)
As if Christ’s rebuke was not shocking enough, the words that followed were even more astounding. In addition to making His disciples aware of the necessary suffering that He had to face, Jesus also called His disciples (and every believer) to follow in His footsteps. Christ unpacked what it means to be His follower by highlighting three specific points.
Christ’s call to deny oneself should not be confused with asceticism. There is no amount of self-discipline or piety that could ever replace the work that is accomplished through Christ on the cross. As followers of Christ, our focus must be on the things of God, and not our own way of doing things. Simply put, Christ’s call here is an admonishment to every believer to turn away from our selfish ways.
Take Up Your Cross
Christ next calls each disciple to “take up his cross.” For Jesus’ disciples, the full realization of His words had yet to be displayed. Christ knew that His death would come by way of crucifixion on a cross. Although the disciples did not fully understand Christ’s allusion yet, eventually they would. They would later reflect on His teachings with a clear understanding that following Christ meant relinquishing everything, even their lives.
Christ commands the disciples to follow Him. Notice how the command to follow Christ came after He called the disciples to deny and die to themselves. Following Christ cannot come apart from the aforementioned.2 Furthermore, the command to follow Christ is not to be taken as a “one-time” call, but is a continual call all the way into eternity.
LOSING YOUR LIFE, SAVING YOUR LIFE
Sisters, if you do not know by now, let me tell you that this is the Gospel. Christ has come, suffered, died, and risen from the grave all for the pardoning of our sins. Moreover, Christ calls every believer into beautiful fellowship with Him by leading us down the same God-ordained path of sacrifice, death, and resurrection. Following Christ means that we must take some losses in life. Every moment won’t be blue skies and sunshine. There will be times when your days are filled with deep wailing, lamenting, and grief because of the losses you experience.
Constantly dying to your selfishness and sinfulness will be one of the most uncomfortable experiences of your life. But take heart, because after you have suffered a while, “the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). In Christ, you can rest assured that what you give in the temporal will be gained in the eternal, and what you lose in the physical will be gained in the spiritual. As Jesus says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
- This week, focus on discipling in a way that reflects the truths found in these verses. How is God calling you teach and lead? Does your way of teaching and leading mirror Christ’s way of teaching and leading?
- In what ways have you been tempted to reflect more on the “things of man” as opposed to the “things of God”? Write them down and take time to confess and pray to God. Ask Him to help you keep His mission at the forefront of your mind.
- How is God calling you to “take up your cross” and “lose your life”? Take time to journal about those things this week. Praise and thank God for opportunities to grow in the likeness of Him through these means.
1-Edwards, James R. The Gospel according to Mark. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002.
2-Turner, David, and Darrell L. Bock. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005
Meet the Author
Portia Collins is a Christian Bible teacher, writer, seminary student, and podcast host. She and her husband Mikhail have a daughter and currently live in the Mississippi Delta. She loves God's Word and enjoys studying and teaching Scripture. Portia's commitment to discipling and training women is more than another project on her "to do" list. Her desire is to see women from all walks of life grow in godliness, grace, and in the knowledge of God. Find out more about Portia at her website.