Have you ever wondered why Jesus was also called “Christ?” Was that like His last name, or was “Christ” some kind of title? Actually, calling Jesus “the Christ” was another way of saying that He was the “Messiah” or Rescuer for whom the Jewish people had hoped and waited. But He was not the type of Messiah that most of Israel was expecting. In today’s passage, Jesus challenges His disciples to consider what the name “Christ” really meant for Him and for us.
The Text (Mark 8:27-38)
27 Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?”
28 So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”
29 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”
30 Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.
31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
Background and Observations
1. The village of Caesarea Philippi was under a cliff with many carved idols of false gods, a perfect place for Jesus to ask His disciples to consider His identity as the only Son of God.
2. Jesus’ miracles and teachings had convinced many that He was at least a prophet and perhaps a promised forerunner to the Messiah, but Jesus wanted His disciples to realize that He was much more than that.
3. The title “Christ” refers to the “Anointed One” or “Messiah” sent from God to deliver the Jewish people.
4. Most Jews in Jesus’ time expected the Christ to be like a conquering hero who would give them political deliverance from the Romans.
5. Jesus, however, teaches His disciples here that as the Christ, He would instead be a Suffering Servant who must die for the sins of the people and then rise from the dead.
6. When Peter speaks, he speaks for the entire group of the disciples, so that when Jesus questions and answers Peter, He is talking to all of them.
7. The disciples had come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but they struggled to understand and accept the idea of His death and resurrection as being necessary in God’s plan of salvation.
8. Jesus explained the gospel very clearly – He had to die and rise again to accomplish His mission from the Father.
9. In verse 34, Jesus says that to really follow Him as the Christ, His disciples must be willing to identify with Him in His suffering and death.
10. A great mystery of being as Christian is the idea that we have to die to ourselves if we want to live in Christ.
Questions to Think About
1. Who do you believe that Jesus is? If you believe in Jesus as the Christ, why?
2. Can you think of some areas of your life where you have been more mindful of “the things of man” than “the things of God”?
3. What are some things that you have given up to follow Christ? In what ways might Jesus be calling you to die to yourself today?