Most commentators see this passage in Mark as the central “hinge” that holds the book together. In the first part of the book, the central question that drives Mark’s narrative is: “Who is this man?” Jesus is teaching and behaving and acting in ways that evoke amazement and bewildered questions about his identity. Over those chapters, Mark is building a case that this person is none other than the promised Messiah and the incarnate Son of God. All those questions of identity culminate in Mark 8:27-29 when Jesus takes the question that everyone has been asking about him and turns it back onto his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” The disciples mumble a few ways that others have answered that question. But Jesus won’t relent. “What about you?” he asks. Peter blurts out, “The Christ (Messiah)!” Finally, the answer is clear!
But now, instead of congratulating the disciples for figuring out who he is, Jesus goes on to talk openly about his own suffering and death. This is the introduction to the second part of Mark, which is preoccupied with the question of what Jesus has come to do. And the answer to that question is given right here in these verses: he has come to suffer and die for his people, and also to gather a community who will follow after him in the same way. Jesus is not just looking for believers, he is looking for disciples. People who don’t just confess in their hearts that Jesus is the Christ, but those who are also then willing to abandon all and follow him on the way to the cross.
Are you ready to confess with your own mouth who Jesus is? And are you prepared to follow him wherever he leads, even unto death? Those are the questions we’ll be exploring this Sunday.
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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?”
28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
31 He 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. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 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. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?