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Second Sunday in Lent

Mark 8:27–38

James T. Batchelor

Lent 2, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Mar 1, 2015 

The reading that we just heard from the Gospel according to Mark once again demonstrates the condensed nature of this account.  The reading you just heard was from Mark 8.  The parallel account of the same event in the Gospel according to Matthew may be found in Matthew 16.

The other thing that demonstrates the condensation of the narrative is the number of events in todays reading.  Normally we would hear Peters confession, You are the Christ, one Sunday and then we would hear Jesus teaching about His suffering, death, and resurrection on the following Sunday.  With Mark, you get them both on one Sunday and the reading still isnt all that long.

The wonderful thing about this condensation in Mark is that you can compare and contrast these two events.  Given that Mark wrote His Gospel based on what he heard from Peter, it is interesting to study Peter in these two events.  At first Peter has this marvelous confession of Jesus, and then Peter has a major fail.  You get it all in quick succession in Mark.

The location for these events is the area around Caesarea Philippi.  Caesarea Philippi is north of Galilee in Gentile territory.  This means that Jesus and His disciples are pretty much alone.  This is a time of private teaching just for the disciples.

Jesus asked a very important question.  In fact, if you get the answer to this question wrong, it is very doubtful that you are a Christian.  Jesus asked His disciples, Who do people say that I am? Most of us in the twenty-first century dont know this, but just about every family in first century Israel had a son named Jesus.  So, just as we hear of all the women named Mary, there were actually a lot of men named Jesus.  It is important for our salvation that we get the right Jesus.  It is important that we know who Jesus is.  It is not enough to just say, I believe in Jesus. We need to day something about Jesus so that others will know in which Jesus we believe.

Well, according to the disciples, most people got Jesus wrong.  They told him, John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets. The peoples guesses were all honorable heroes of the Bible.  In most cases, men would be very honored to be compared to these servants of God, but not Jesus.  The true Jesus is in a whole different category then these great historical figures.

Many people hold the name Jesus in high regard today, but they still have the wrong Jesus.  Some people look at the example of Jesus and figure that that is all Jesus is.  Jesus is an example, but He is much more.  Some people think that Jesus was just a good, moral teacher and nothing more.  In fact, Jesus is a great teacher, but He is so much more.  There are all kinds of opinions about Jesus that get part of the truth, but dont get the main truth of who Jesus is.

Then Jesus asked the disciples, But who do you say that I am? Peter answered him, You are the Christ. Peter got the words exactly right.  Jesus is the Christ.  This is the foundation sentence of the creeds.  When we properly confess Jesus as the Christ, we have properly confessed our salvation.

The interesting thing about the rest of the Gospel that we heard this morning is that the reading goes on to show that Peter did not understand what he said.  Although Peter got the words exactly right, He didnt know what they meant.  How do we know that?

Well, first of all, Jesus strictly charged them to tell no one about him.  You would think that Jesus would want everyone to know His true identity.  Never the less, He strictly charged the disciples not to tell anyone.  He was stern.  Keep this information to yourself.

Then Jesus began to explain the true meaning of Peters confession to the disciples.  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.  This is what it means for Jesus to be the Christ.  It means suffering, death, and resurrection.  It means dying on the cross in order to take away our sins, and it means rising from the dead.  If we are to have the right Jesus, it must be the Jesus who died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead.  If your Jesus did not do these things, then you have the wrong Jesus.

Apparently, Peter got it wrong.  Peter took [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke him.  Dont let that word rebuke fool you.  Peter is ready to give Jesus a good tongue-lashing to bawl Him out.  Peter is ready to read Jesus the riot act.  Let me remind you that Peter is a fisherman who is only about half way through his seminary training and Jesus is God in the flesh.  Never the less, Peter takes it upon himself to scold the Son of God.

Jesus immediately saw the danger to Peter and He rebuked Peter right back.  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. Jesus words teach us that not only was Peters understanding wrong, but Peter was even acting as an agent of Satan.  Peter was actually tempting Jesus to abandon His mission to the cross to abandon His mission to die for our sins.

This exchange between Jesus and Peter should be a warning to us as well.  Peters master had just told him that He was to suffer and die.  It is very likely that Peter not only considered Jesus to be his master, but also a close friend.  Who would want a friend to suffer and die?  Peter, in his ignorance, was responding in the way that he thought was best.  I can empathize with Peter.  I can understand why Peter did what he did.  Never the less, Peter was wrong and Jesus scolded him severely.

How often do we make decisions based on what seems right to us instead of checking in the Word of God?  How often do we assume things about God without checking the words that He Himself gave us?  How often do we, like Peter, proceed in the way that we think is best and forget that God may have something totally different for us?  How often do we follow in Peters footsteps? 

How glad we can be that Jesus didnt listen to Peter.  Jesus followed up on His promise.  He went to Jerusalem and there the elders and the chief priests and the scribes did exactly what He said they would do.  They arrested Jesus and held a mock trial.  Then they took Jesus to Pontius Pilate and used political pressure to have Him crucified.  Jesus died just as He said He would and then He also rose just as He said He would.  Jesus did all this in order to take away our sin and give us His righteousness instead.  Because Jesus did not listen to Peter, but followed through on His plan, we now have forgiveness, life, and salvation.

When we talk about Jesus, it is very important that we talk about the right Jesus the Jesus who suffered many things, was rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and died and after three days rose again.  The only Christ who can save us for eternity is the true Christ the Christ crucified and risen from the dead.  It is in this Christ and this Christ alone that we have eternal life.  Amen

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