Today Mark 8 brings us to the very core of Christianity. We’ve been following Jesus and his disciples for some time. They’ve seen his miracles, felt his compassion, heard his teaching. Now it’s decision time. There are two key questions here: Who is Jesus? And what does it take to follow him?
We begin at verse 27:
“Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’”
A simple question. And really this is where we all begin when trying to figure out what we believe. We start with what we’ve heard from others. The disciples give a few answers they’ve heard: Some say Jesus is John the Baptist reborn, or Elijah, or a prophet.
And today people have many opinions on who Jesus is. Muslims honor Jesus as a great prophet of Allah - sinless and born of a virgin. Jews are mixed about Jesus - some see a good rabbi, others see a heretic, while many see Messiah. Many Hindus respect Jesus as a guru to the Jewish people, while many Buddhists regard Jesus as an enlightened being. So there are lots of ideas about Jesus - mostly positive. But in verse 29, Jesus presses the matter:
“‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’”
This is the question that counts. For faith to mean anything, it has to be personal. It’s not enough to know what others say. It has to come from you: Who do you say Jesus is?
It’s decision time, and Peter makes his:
“Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’”
This is a big moment. Messiah means anointed one. He is God’s chosen one to fulfill his promises and complete his great plan to save. We’ll dig into God’s promises and prophecies in our next journey. For now, understand that Peter’s declaration is the foundation stone for faith. Our walk with God begins with who we say that Jesus is.
And in verse 31, Jesus teaches them that the Messiah...
“...must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders.”
Jesus doesn’t want them surprised when God’s chosen one is rejected by the hypocritical leaders,
“...and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.”
So Jesus lays it all out. He will be killed and rise again. It was prophesied for centuries, in Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, Zechariah 12. It is God’s plan. The cross is coming.
Interesting, it is the cross that separates the Jesus of the Bible from what the others say. Muslims reject the cross story; Hindus speak of Jesus passing into peaceful samadhi; and for Buddhists who don’t believe in sin, the cross is just cruel.
At first, Peter has a similar reaction. He takes Jesus aside to rebuke him. But Jesus rebukes Peter for thinking like a man, and ignoring the things of God. Man’s thinking would save the good guy from suffering, and let the bad ones get what they deserve. But not Jesus. Jesus lived righteous, and took a sinner’s death. He took our place.
Then in verse 34, Jesus explains what it takes to be his disciple. Read carefully:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
If you want to follow Jesus, memorize this verse. This is the cost. To follow Jesus, you must:
Deny yourself: You cannot save yourself, you cannot be good enough. You need Jesus.
Take up your cross: Every Christian bears a burden, a sacrifice. Life won’t be fair to you.
And follow Jesus: Where Jesus leads, you follow.
Following Jesus is more than belief, just like marriage is more than a feeling. It’s a continual commitment, a covenant in His blood. Verse 35:
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
I love that verse. You know what Jesus is saying? He’s saying that your soul is worth more than the whole world. So let go of the world, and hold on to Jesus. For Jesus, your soul is worth dying for. What is it worth to you?
In my own life, I wasted a lot of years content to leave faith to other people, “They believe this and that.” But there came a day for decision - for my own faith. There’s a big difference between believing in marriage and being married. And there’s a big difference between believing something about Jesus and following Jesus. The difference is commitment and sacrifice. In short, the difference is your life. And it’s worth every second.
Read Mark 8, and answer today’s questions. Who do you say Jesus is, and are you ready to follow him?
For Reflection & Discussion:
Who do you say that Jesus is?
What will it take for you to follow Jesus? Write verse 34 in your own words for your life.
Is following Jesus worth the price? Write verses 35-36 in your own words for your life.