Seeing Jesus


Mark 8:27-35

Key Idea:

There is a time to hold on and a time to let go


Seeing Jesus


  • Introduction
  • Peter’s confession – Mark 8:27-30
  • Jesus’ prediction – Mark 8:31-33
  • Salvation’s paradox – Mark 8:34-35
  • Conclusion


Today we continue our sermon series looking at some of Jesus’ conversations with his disciple, Simon Peter

Please turn with me to Mark chapter 8, verse 27

–        You can find Mark 8 on page 56 toward the back of your pew Bibles

–        Chapter 8 is a hinge passage in Mark’s gospel

–        In comes in the centre as a turning point in Jesus’ ministry

–        It is also a hinge point for Peter and the disciples as they become aware of who Jesus is, what he came to do and what it all means for them

–        From Mark chapter 8, verse 27, we read…

[Read Mark 8:27-35]

May the Spirit of Christ help us to understand the time for holding on and the time for letting go

Peter’s confession – Mark 8:27-30

William Barclay retells the story of a 4th Century monk by the name of Telemachus [1]

–        Telemachus had determined to leave the world to live all alone in prayer & fasting and through these disciplines to save his soul

–        In his lonely life he sought nothing but contact with God

–        But somehow he felt there was something wrong

One day, as he rose from his knees, it suddenly dawned on him that the life he was living was somewhat selfish

–        He realised that if he was to serve God he must serve people and therefore the desert was no place for a Christian to live

–        The cities may have been full of sin but they were also full of people who needed to know God’s love

So Telemachus left his life of solitude in the desert and set out to the greatest city in the world – the city of Rome

–        He begged his way across land and seas to reach his destination

By this time Rome was officially Christian

–        Telemachus arrived at a time when the Roman General, Stilicho, had gained a mighty victory over the Goths

–        As part of the celebrations there would be gladiatorial games where those captured in battle were forced to fight each other to the death to entertain the Roman populace

The crowd of 80,000 roared with blood lust as the gladiators fought

–        Meanwhile Telemachus found his way into the arena

–        He was appalled at what he saw

–        Men for whom Christ had died were killing each other to amuse a supposedly Christian audience

Still in his monk’s robes, Telemachus, leapt over the barrier and dropped into the fighting pit – standing between two gladiators

–        For a moment they stopped

–        But the crowd shouted, ‘Let the games go on’

–        The gladiators pushed Telemachus aside & again he stood between them

–        The crowd began to hurl stones at him urging the soldiers to kill the old monk, so the captain of the games gave an order, a sword flashed and in moments Telemachus was dead

The arena fell silent – shocked that a holy man had been killed in such a way

–        Suddenly everyone’s eyes were opened and they saw Christ in the man who gave his life to stop the violence

The games ended abruptly that day and never began again

There is a time for holding on and a time for letting go

–        Telemachus let go of his life of solitude but he held on to his vision of Christ

–        Then he let go of his life so that others could get hold of God’s love

This morning’s reading from Mark’s gospel begins with Jesus leading his disciples from Bethsaida to the villages near the city of Caesarea Philippi

–        At the time of Jesus, Caesarea Philippi was a centre of worship for those who believed Caesar was a god

–        Before that the city had been a centre of worship for Pan, the Greek god of nature

–        And before that Caesarea Philippi had been a site where the god Baal was worshiped [2]

Now you would think this was a most unlikely location for Jesus to reveal his true identity and purpose – like hearing God speak to you at a Metallica concert, or in a shopping mall or at an arena during a gladiators’ contest – totally unexpected

–        Caesarea Philippi may have been a city full of sin but it was also a city full of people who needed to know the love of God

–        So in a way it was the most appropriate place for the disciples to learn who Jesus really is

Whales communicate by a technique called echo-location

–        They can’t see all that well under water so they make high pitched sounds measuring how long it takes for the sound to bounce back to them

–        Obviously the longer it takes for the sound to come back the further away the object

It seems to me Jesus uses a bit of echo-location with the disciples on this occasion

–        Jesus doesn’t come straight out with it by saying…

–        “Guess what guys – I’m the Messiah”

–        No – he gently questions the disciples to sound out how far they are from understanding who he really is

–        In an area which is renowned for its worship of false gods Jesus says to his followers, “Who do people say that I am”

–        And they reply, “Some say you are John the Baptist, others say that you are Elijah, while others say that you are one of the prophets.”

This tells us most people didn’t yet perceive who Jesus actually was

–        Yes, they had a vague idea that Jesus was a messenger from God (and this created quite a bit of expectation) but their vision of Jesus was still pretty blurry

So Jesus asks his disciples another echo-location question…

–        “What about you? Who do you say I am?

–        This is more specific – more personal

–        Peter replies, “You are the Messiah”

The word ‘Messiah’ is a Hebrew word which literally means ‘anointed one’

–        The Greek equivalent is ‘Christ’ – also meaning ‘anointed one’

–        In Old Testament times when God wanted to identify someone to be king he would have one of his prophets anoint the chosen one by pouring olive oil on his head

The words ‘Messiah’ and ‘Christ’ are not surnames for Jesus – they are titles

–        You know – like ‘Sir Daryl’ or ‘Baron Brian’ or ‘Dame Letitia’

–        Except the title of ‘Messiah’ carries a far greater status and honour than any other title

–        To call Jesus ‘Messiah’ was like calling him King – a rival to Caesar

–        This title was politically explosive – a treasonable offence

Verse 30 tells us that Jesus ordered his disciples not to tell anyone about him

–        For various reasons the Jews thought the Messiah would be a military leader (like king David) who would completely destroy Israel’s enemies

–        If word got out that Jesus was the Messiah all hell would break lose

–        People would rally alongside Jesus in expectation of a violent overthrow of Rome and much life would be lost for nothing

So Jesus orders his disciples to remain silent about his true identity

–        Jesus didn’t come for genocide – he came for salvation

–        He didn’t come to take life – he came to give life

Jesus’ prediction – Mark 8:30-33

There is a time for holding on and a time for letting go

–        Peter had correctly confessed that Jesus is the Messiah – and the disciples needed to hold on to that

–        But the common misconception that the Messiah would spill his enemies’ blood they needed to let go of

–        The only blood that would be spilled was Jesus’ blood. From verse 31 we read…


Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death but three days later will rise to life. Jesus made this very clear to them (Which means he didn’t talk in parables)


So Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him but Jesus turned round, looked at his disciples, and rebuked Peter, saying…

–        “Get behind me Satan. Your thoughts don’t come from God but from man”

This is one of the most difficult parts of the gospel to listen to

–        It sounds like such a harsh thing for Jesus to say when Peter is so well intentioned

So what’s actually happening here?

–        Well, the first thing we notice is that Jesus only rebukes Peter after Peter has tried to rebuke him

–        The measure we use for others is the measure God will use for us

–        If we forgive others He will forgive us

–        If we are generous with others He will be generous with us

–        If we rebuke God or try to correct Him, He will rebuke us

The Good News Bible (the one in our pews) translates verse 33 as ‘Get away from me Satan’

–        A more accurate translation has Jesus saying, ‘Get behind me Satan’

–        These are words of grace and truth

–        Jesus is not telling Peter to get lost (as the Good News translation suggests)

–        Jesus is telling Peter to get in behind

  • Stop trying to lead me
  • Stop trying to manage me
  • Stop trying to set the agenda for me

–        ‘Get behind me as my disciple – I need your support not your opposition’

Having said that, we can’t avoid the fact that Jesus compares Peter to Satan

–        Although it sounds harsh it is a fair comparison

–        Just as Satan had tried to divert Jesus from going to the cross by offering a short cut, so too Peter tries to divert Jesus

–        The difference between Peter and the Devil is that Peter wasn’t really aware of what he was doing, whereas Satan was quite intentional

It’s interesting that Jesus follows the phrase ‘Get behind me Satan’ with ‘Your thoughts don’t come from God but from man’

–        The implication is the human race has had its thinking distorted by Satan

–        So Peter was not on his own in wanting Jesus to avoid the cross

–        He was only saying what everyone else was thinking

–        Jesus may have been talking to Peter but he was looking at the other disciples as he spoke

–        They (and we) have all had our thinking distorted by the devil

Recently a movie came out called Gravity – starring Sandra Bullock & George Clooney

–        Set in space Gravity tells the story of one woman, Dr Ryan Stone, who learns that in order to truly live she needs to learn to let go

I’d like to play you a clip from the film now – I think it helps to illustrate what Jesus was saying and how Peter struggled with it…

Play the clip from ‘Gravity’

Chapter 4, start at 29:45 and finish at 32:40 if using VLC Media Player


In the scene we just saw Matt Kowalski (played by George Clooney) was the leader of the mission and Dr Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock) was the scientist

–        Dr Stone didn’t want to let go of her mission leader Matt Kowalski

–        In her desperation she started trying to give him orders

–        Her thought was to try & save Kowalski by grabbing hold of the tether between them

–        But Kowalski tells her, ‘…you have to let me go or we will both die’

–        Dr Stone can’t do it – she can’t let go

–        In the end mission commander Kowalski has to unclip the tether himself

This situation reminds me a bit of Jesus and Peter

–        Peter is holding on when he needs to let go

–        Jesus is the mission leader and Peter is hanging by a thread

–        Peter wants to save Jesus (or perhaps he just wants to save his idea of the Messiah) and in his desperation he starts trying to give Jesus orders

–        Jesus knows if he doesn’t go to the cross he can’t save Peter or anyone

–        So it’s like Jesus says to Peter, You have to let me go or we will both die

Salvation’s paradox – Mark 8:34-35

There is a time for holding on and a time for letting go

–        In verse 34 Jesus calls the crowd and his disciples to him saying…

–        If anyone wants to come after me he must forget self, carry his cross and follow me.

Jesus is referring to his own death in this verse – he would literally be crucified as would some of his disciples

–        Most of us are unlikely to ever be crucified but nevertheless there is still a cost to following Jesus

So what does it mean then for us forget self and carry our cross?

Well, forgetting self does not mean neglecting our own physical or mental health

–        It does not mean working 16 hours a day 7 days a week burning ourselves out for the gospel – that’s just poor stewardship

–        As a general rule we do better if we keep life in balance and take care of ourselves so we are able to serve God as a living sacrifice

By the same token carrying your cross does not mean stoically putting up with any sort of suffering or hardship – like when people say of an illness or a difficult relative, ‘It’s just my cross to bear’

–        No – carrying our cross has to do specifically with suffering through our association with Jesus

–        Crucifixion was not only a painful death – it was also a humiliating death

–        Part of the punishment involved carrying the cross bar through the streets as a way publicly shaming the person and destroying their reputation

–        So ‘forget self and carry your cross’, in the context of Mark 8, means forget your reputation for the sake of Christ

–        Be prepared to identify with Jesus even though it makes you look bad in the eyes of others

Jesus’ step dad Joseph (the carpenter) forgot himself

–        Joseph had a good reputation – a reputation as a just man

–        But when God asked him to marry the pregnant Mary he had to forget his reputation

–        He couldn’t afford to worry about what others thought or said about him

–        He had to suck it up and endure being misunderstood

What if we bring this idea of forgetting your reputation into a contemporary NZ context?

–        Well, generally speaking Christians don’t get good press in this country

–        We are sometimes portrayed as a bit backward, a bit homo-phobic, a bit irrelevant, a bit narrow minded and a bit cultish – like the Moonies, something to be avoided

–        Whenever someone asks if they can name me as a referee on their job application I think they are quite brave really

–        I’m not sure it always helps your cause to say you go to church

Having said this we shouldn’t be too quick to develop a persecution complex

–        Christians are not usually targeted for persecution in NZ – we have it a lot easier than Christians in some other countries

–        And, in my experience, once people get to know you properly any reservations they may have had about Christians tend to dissolve – so it is generally worth the risk being up front about our allegiance to Jesus

–        Better for your employer to find out you are Christian before they give you the job than to find out 3 months down the track and then feel like you have been hiding things from them

Anyway, the point is, forgetting self and carrying your cross means forgetting your reputation and being willing to suffer humiliation for the sake of Christ

–        In reality this can hurt because so much in life seems to depend on our reputation

–        Like getting a foot in the door, getting work, getting a promotion, getting friends, getting accepted and getting ahead in life

–        Jesus is saying we need to be prepared to put these things aside if we are going to follow him – because he didn’t come make us look good

I was reading an article in Time magazine recently – this article in fact…

 [Display slide 1]

Time - google-calico-cover-0913

“Can Google solve death?”

–        Internet giant Google have started a subsidiary company called ‘Calico’ which is doing some long range research into finding ways to enable people to live longer

–        Not just finding a cure for diseases like cancer and dementia but trying to find a way to reverse the aging process

–        Sounds like science fiction but I suppose if you have lots of money and time you begin to think seriously about this sort of stuff

–        Now I have no intention of criticising their efforts

–        Who knows – maybe they will stumble upon some remedy which helps to extend the average life expectancy of human beings – good luck to them

As I reflected on the article though it occurred to me that Jesus has already solved death

 [Stop displaying slide 1]

 In verse 35 Jesus says…

–        For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for me and the gospel will save it.

There is a profound paradox in these words which evades full comprehension

The movie clip we saw earlier sheds some light on the first part of what Jesus says…

–        Whoever wants to save his own life will lose it

–        If Matt Kowalski had tried to save his own life he would have lost it and taken Dr Stone with him

–        He knew it was time for him to let go – even if Dr Stone didn’t

But the story I told earlier about the monk Telemachus provides a better illustration of the paradox, for Telemachus’ story finds its meaning more directly in relation to Jesus’ story

–        Jesus literally lost his life by dying on a cross to make us right with God

–        But in losing his life Jesus saved it – for God raised him from the dead

–        Now all who put their faith in Jesus will share in his resurrection, even though they die

–        Telemachus’ death reminded the crowd that Jesus died for them and for those gladiators who were being killed for their entertainment

–        His death also reminded the people of Jesus’ resurrection – a resurrection that Telemachus shares in, just as he shared in Christ’s sufferings


At the heart of this idea of losing our life to save it is the lesson all human beings need to learn – the lesson of when to hold on and when to let go

For those of us who are parents – our kids need us to hold on to them when they are young but as they get older we need to learn to let them go

–        Not all at once but gradually

–        If we hold on too tightly for too long it damages the relationship

It’s a similar principle with school and work

–        When we are studying for an exam or working toward an important deadline at work – that’s the time to hold on

–        But once the exam is finished and the deadline has passed – that’s the time to let go

–        Do the work, do the hard yards, but don’t worry about the outcome

There is a time for holding on and a time for letting go

–        Forgiveness requires us to hold on to God’s grace while letting go of our feelings of hurt and guilt

–        Grief is similar to forgiveness – it’s the letting go which is painful

When you are maligned, misunderstood and mistreated because of Christ that is a time to hold on to the hope of heaven – those who share in Christ’s suffering will also share in his glory

–        But when you want something so badly that you would give anything to get it – that’s a time to let go and simply pray, ‘Not my will Father, but your will be done.’

There is a time for holding on and a time for letting go

–        What time is it for you?

Let us pray…

[1] William Barclay, ‘The Gospel of Mark’, pages 208-209.

[2] Ben Witherington, ‘The Gospel of Mark’, page 240.