Mark chapter 8 is a critical chapter in the Gospel and in the life of Jesus.

Jesus asks his disciples who people say he is. They mention John the Baptist back from the dead. Others say Elijah the prophet, the one who would come before the messiah. People get a small glimpse of who Jesus is but by their confession they really are not getting the big picture. This establishes for us an understanding that Jesus was not completely understood by everyone around him.

Jesus then turns to the disciples and he asks the important question “Who do you say I am?” It is not about what everyone else thinks right now. You have seen me, heard me…so tell me if you got it. Peter makes the profession that he is the Christ – the anointed one. Peter correctly identifies Jesus as the Messiah, and the Christian reader today celebrates that someone has finally got it right. But the celebration doesn’t last long because Jesus then immediately says that He must suffer and that He must die. Whoa!!!! Reverse that train and put it back in the station…you must do what?

The idea of a suffering Messiah, although present in the prophecies, was never even considered by the Jews. He was to come to defeat evil and reign supreme. The people of Israel were supposed to be elevated to a place of prominence and how could they do that with a dead messiah. Thus comes the harsh rebuke from Peter as he pulls Jesus aside to tell him that is not what the messiah is supposed to do. Once again, Jesus will not conform his mission to fit the Pharisees, his family or his disciples ideal vision of who they want him to be. He tells Peter, “Get behind me Satan.” He will not allow Peter to distract him from what he came to do. The Messiah must die and will rise again.

This is a big chapter in the Gospel because we have seen opposition from the Pharisees. Their message is wholly different from what Jesus is proclaiming, so we get why they clash. In this chapter the disciples finally hear plainly the destination that Jesus is headed towards and they seem to be opposed to it. Jesus will offend both the religious and irreligious…which is why we know that Christianity is not just for one people or one culture but the Gospel goes across all cultures and speaks to every sinful heart.

So who do you say Jesus is? Have you still been trying to create him in your own image like the Pharisees and his disciples? How can you discover and hold to the true confession of Jesus?

A challenge this week: Ask three people who you don’t know what comes to mind when you mention the name of Jesus. Who do people say that he is? Report back what you learn and hear. I think it could be really interesting to find out what people think. I will also be taking this challenge and will report back what I learn.

Let us know what you think by posting comments below or on our Facebook page. Thanks!