The Christ of the Cross | Mark 8:27-34

[Preached on Palm Sunday]

rp_Wheat2-300x200.jpgMisunderstanding Jesus

Who do you say that Jesus is? It’s an important question. Small misunderstandings lead to huge consequences.

During what is known as The Triumphal Entry, the Jews misunderstood Jesus, thinking he was a savior from Roman oppression (Mark 11:9-10; 15:12-14). Before that, many people misunderstood Jesus as a reincarnate prophet from the past (Mark 6:14-15; 8:27-28). Mark 8:29, Peter correctly understood Jesus as the Christ, but immediately revealed that he misunderstood what Christ meant.

29And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. 31And 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. 32And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But 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.” (Mark 8:29-33)

Peter correctly identified Jesus as the Christ, but didn’t understand that the Christ required the cross. I believe this Satanic (v.33) misunderstanding remains a prominent danger to Jesus’ disciples today.

Rebuking Jesus

Why does Jesus call Peter “Satan” in verse 33? Matthew 4:8-10 sheds some light:

8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:8-10)

Satan (the Devil) tempted Jesus by saying in essence, “You can be the Christ, only do as I wish and worship me.” Back in Mark 8, Peter said in essence, “You can be the Christ, only do as I wish and forget about all this cross talk.”

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Disciples are supposed to be baptized into Jesus’ world, where his vision and mission are supreme. Yet many disciples attempt to baptize Jesus into their own worlds, dragging him into their own visions and missions. This is how we get:

  • American Patriotism Jesus
  • Self-help Jesus
  • Prosperity Jesus
  • Harmonious Family Jesus
  • Church Growth Jesus

None of which require the cross.

Like Peter, we often set our minds on the things of man rather than the things of God. This is one reason Bible reading is so hard for many of us. It just doesn’t address our concerns. It’s also a reason we don’t pray. “Do we not spend far more energy praying that our children will pass their exams, or get a good job, or be happy, or not stray too far, than we do praying that they may live lives worthy of what it means to be a Christian?” (Carson, Praying with Paul, page 36).

Jesus is always fixing problems we don’t care about, and ignoring the problems we do care about. Like a child with a splinter, we only want a Band-Aid so we get get back to playing. We don’t want painful, bloody extraction. We want whole marriages; God wants whole hearts. We want healed bodies; God wants healed spirits. We want temporary fun; God wants eternal life. We want a truce; God wants adoption.

Peter misunderstood the Christ because he didn’t realize his problem was lodged so deep. He thought Jesus could establish an earthly kingdom and all would be well; but Jesus knew that:

  • people were broken, needing to be made whole
  • soul-sick, needing to be healed
  • slaves to sin, needing to be freed
  • spiritually dead, needing to be brought to life
  • guilty, needing to be made innocent
  • enemies, needing to be adopted as sons
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And all of this requires the cross.

Receiving Jesus as the Christ of the Cross

It isn’t enough to identify Jesus as the Christ. We must receive him as the Christ of the Cross. When we don’t, we get:

  • religion without reconciliation with God
  • to pretend rather than be purified within
  • more burdens rather than brokenness made whole
  • guilt and shame rather than innocence and peace.

Does your Christ require the cross? Many say, “God is good. God takes care of me. Church is great,” but not “Jesus has borne my griefs and carried my sorrows. He was pierced for my transgressions, crushed for my iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that brought me peace and with his wounds I am healed. Like a sheep, I have gone astray to my own way, and the Lord has laid on him my iniquities” (from Isaiah 53:4-6).

Does your Christianity require the cross? Many say, “I go to church and try to be good,” but not “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Who do you say that Jesus is? What satanic substitutes do you attempt to follow? Is your mind set on the things of man or the things of God?

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Be made whole, healed and freed. Be made alive, innocent and pure by believing in Jesus, the Christ of the cross.

Discussion Starters

  1. Read Mark 8:27-33 together.
  2. Why would the people have thought what they thought in verse 28?
  3. How do you suppose Peter knew what he knew in verse 29?
  4. Why would Jesus charge them not to tell anyone in verse 30?
  5. Why did Jesus start teaching that he must suffer immediately after Peter’s confession that he is the Christ (verse 31)?
  6. Why must Jesus have suffered those things?
  7. Why do you think Peter rebuked Jesus in verse 32?
  8. Why do you think Jesus called Peter Satan in verse 33?
  9. How does setting your mind on the things of man rather than the things of God connect with misunderstanding Jesus, and even being called Satan? (v.33)
  10. Have you seen or experienced a version of Christianity that does not require the cross? Can you describe it?
  11. What are the contrasts between true Christianity (with the cross) and cross-less Christianity?
  12. What other scriptures come to  mind as you think through these things? How to they shed light on Mark 8:27-33?


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