And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. — Mark 8:29
Have you ever been exasperated with someone who was slow to pick up on a key point? After careful explanation, that person still just did not seem to grasp the concept. In the past year, I have gained a little perspective on this. After completing a difficult course which would have qualified me to teach others, I was chagrined to learn that I had failed. The instructors recognized that I had worked hard, but somehow I just had not grasped the point of the course. Then I had four long months to consider what had gone wrong (and to repair my bruised ego) before I retook the course. The second time, thankfully, I passed with flying colors. Finally, I had really understood the intended concept!
In our focus verse, Peter showed that he truly understood who Jesus was. We might wonder why understanding this was so difficult. However, we must remember that many others also had heard and seen Jesus and yet did not fully understand that He was the Messiah. Some thought He was the reappearance of John the Baptist, or of Elijah, or one of the other prophets. Jesus’ response to Peter’s comprehension of this critical concept is recorded in Matthew’s parallel account of this incident: “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). The only way we can grasp important spiritual truths is for God to enlighten us, because spiritual truths are spiritually discerned.
God is faithful to give each of us the opportunity to find salvation for our souls. Once we have been born again, He wants to teach us just as He taught His disciples. Sometimes we may be challenged to grasp the point regarding a spiritual matter, but the Lord is happy — and we are too — when we understand it. We want to have hearts that are open when God’s truths come our way.
Many Bible scholars consider today’s text as a midpoint in the Book of Mark. Jesus had been ministering to crowds of people, but He would face the Cross in about six months. From this point on in Mark’s account, Jesus spent most of His time with His close followers, teaching them of His impending death and resurrection.
The city of Caesarea Philippi was located in the mountainous area north of the Sea of Galilee, near the base of snow-capped Mt. Hermon. Philip the tetrarch (Herod Philip, considered Herod the Great’s favorite son) had renovated the city and changed the name from Caesarea to Caesarea Philippi. (It was a different town than the coastal Caesarea in Herod Antipas’ territory.) Worship of Greek gods thrived in this pagan city, so it was a significant place for Jesus to ask His disciples who He was.
When Jesus inquired who people thought He was, it was more than a test of knowledge. He was moving toward asking the disciples the pointed question, “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter’s response has been called the “Great Confession,” and indicated that he recognized Jesus as the Messiah. However, the Jewish people thought the Messiah would be a political and military leader. The continuing conversation showed that Peter did not understand the full implication of his statement, “Thou art the Christ.”
Immediately, Jesus made the first of three predictions about His death and resurrection (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). The Great Sanhedrin, who instigated His death, was composed of the elders, chief priests, and scribes who were mentioned in verse 31. The Suffering Servant had been prophesied, but Peter and the other disciples could not comprehend that. When Peter tried to dissuade Him, Jesus gave a strong rebuke. Jesus used forceful words because He knew anything that tried to divert Him from the Cross was a tool of Satan. Peter was looking from the human rather than the divine perspective.
In verses 34-38, Jesus gave instructions regarding discipleship. The Roman people who were Mark’s audience were familiar with crucifixion. Criminals were forced to demonstrate submission to the power of Rome by carrying their own crosses. Jesus was teaching the necessity of full submission to God and His will. He said those who tried to preserve their lives would lose them, but those who gave themselves for Christ and the Gospel would save their lives. Jesus wanted His followers to understand that there is no profit whatsoever if one were to gain the whole world but in the process lose his soul, and there is nothing so precious to an individual as his never-dying soul. To be ashamed for Christ in this life would bring a sad end in eternity.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
V. The instructions of the Son of God
A. Instructions concerning His person (8:27-30)
1. Various claims (8:27-28)
2. Peter’s confession (8:29)
3. Christ’s warning (8:30)
B. Instructions concerning His death (8:31-33)
C. Instructions for the disciples (8:34-38)
The Lord wants us to be spiritually perceptive. Let’s keep our hearts open to His teaching.