Peter in one conversation went from hero to zero. When Jesus asked his disciples, ‘Who do you say I am?’ Mark 8.29 Peter replied, ‘You are the Messiah.’ v29 Peter’s statement is the turning point in Mark’s gospel. Up to then the gospel had been largely addressing the issue of Jesus’ identity. Jesus had amazed, puzzled and antagonized people through his power and authority over sickness, evil spirits, the natural world, sin and death. He taught with authority that could not be matched by the religious teachers of the day. His deeds enacted his words. He fulfilled long prophesied events. He was a threat to secular and religious leaders alike because their motivations and sin were exposed. Exactly who he was remained difficult to pin down for leaders and the public alike. Was he a great teacher or a fraud, a miracle worker or a deluded man. Was he a prophet or the actual Messiah? Then when Jesus asks his closest follower who do they think he is? Peter comes out with his confession, he is the Messiah.
Mark then sets up the second half of the gospel with the clarity that only comes with hindsight. ‘He (Jesus) 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.’ Mark 8.31 There is a sudden shift in the narrative. Mark has moved on from identity to mission. The second half of the gospel answers the questions, why did Jesus come and what did he have to do? In other words, what was God the Father’s will for Jesus? Jesus had come to save the lost and to do that he had to defeat sin, death and the devil. What Jesus described to Peter did not sound like victory, it sounded like humiliating defeat. Why was that? It was because Peter did not understand the mind of God, he viewed the words Jesus said through the eyes of the conventional wisdom of the world. He wanted a saviour like David who was successful in battle and remained untouched by harm.
Jesus knew the way to victory was one of suffering and the indescribable pain of separation from God the Father as he took the consequences of believer’s sin upon himself. Any turning from that way would have been victory for Satan. His way was the way of the cross. But not only his way, it was to be the way for his followers as well. ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’ Mark 8.35
Jesus is very clear being a disciple of his is an all or nothing thing. It is not like belonging to a golf club where we can go if it pleases us and avoid commitments if we wish. Jesus expects us to align our hearts and minds to the will of God the Father as he does. Being a disciple is as serious a matter for the disciple as Jesus’ mission was for him.
Are our hearts aligned to the ways of God or the ways of the world?
Listen to our hearts – Casting Crowns