Imagine you have walked with Jesus for three years. Everywhere he went, you went with him. You ate with him, slept with him, traveled long, hot hours in the sun with him. You laughed and you cried with hm.
You saw him heal the lame and preach sermons to crowds of thousands. You were there when the Pharisees confronted him, and he left them speechless. You know Jesus better than anyone else on earth. You know where he grew up and his family.
You have watched Jesus in all of those moments. You watched him with the crowds and the one-on-one encounters. You saw him go off into the wilderness to pray for hours on end. He told you things he didn’t tell anyone else.
Imagine walking with Jesus from one town to the next, as you always did, and you are talking on the way. He asks you who the people say he is.
That’s pretty easy, right? You heard the crowds and people talking as he preached. You know what they were saying. Maybe Jesus didn’t hear it, but you did.
“And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they told him, ‘John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.’”Mark 8:27-28
Then Jesus dropped a more difficult question: “‘But who do you say that I am?’” (Mark 8:29a)
THAT was the big question. You had all been talking about it. How could you not!
No one saw all the things Jesus did like the twelve of you. You had a front row seat to the most amazing display of the power of God since the days of Moses!
No one could do all those things if he wasn’t sent from God – if he wasn’t the Messiah, himself! But saying it, was another thing. You were all thinking it, but who was going to say it?
The intrigue and mystery that surrounded Jesus was getting pretty intense. The excitement and hope among the throngs of people were building with each passing day. They couldn’t go anywhere that crowds did not find him. While the opposition from the Pharisees was growing and becoming more severe, Jesus seemed untouchable.
Peter, of course, broke the silence:
“You are the Christ.”Mark 8:29b
There it was. Peter said it. The anticipation of the twelve at that moment as you wait for the next thing Jesus will say is pregnant with hope, excitement, exhilaration even! This is it isn’t it! You know it is.
But, you should know by now to expect the unexpected, as they say. What Jesus says next is the reason they all hesitated in the first place.
“Do NOT … tell anyone … what Peter just said.”Mark 8:30 (paraphrased)
You wonder for a second whether Jesus is going to break out the fire and brimstone against Peter…. He doesn’t, but is he … going to deny it?
But he doesn’t…. He didn’t deny it!
But why not tell anyone?
In fact, why did he always tell people not to say anything?
Remember the demons when he healed all these people at Peter and Andrew’s house? They knew him! But he shut them up. (Mark 1:34) Remember the leper he healed right on the spot in Galilee? Jesus told him to say nothing, not to anyone. (Mark 1:40-44)
Remember the unclean spirits by the sea? They called him the “Son of Man”! But he refused to let them go on saying it. Remember the little girl he raised from the dead?!! He told her family that no one should know about it. (Mark 5:35-43) Remember the deaf man? (Mark 7:35-36)
Those are just a few of the times you can recall.
Jesus consistently ordered people to remain silent, but how could they? Really! No one had ever seen anything like what he did! How could they not talk about it? Why shouldn’t the whole world know about Jesus!
Jesus just basically admitted that he is the Messiah – the Anointed One all descendants of Abraham had anticipated for generations … and centuries! Right?
He didn’t deny it. He just said, don’t tell anyone. That was it…. Even after all the things Jesus said and did, why? How long is he going to try to keep people quiet about him? You are baffled.
If you are being candid, you really don’t know how to process it.
Then things get even crazier.
Jesus certainly knew what they were thinking. He always seemed to know. Here you are, struggling to process what just happened – the most incredible disclosure, the thing you thought you knew, the thing you hoped for, and Jesus virtually confirmed it – but you can’t tell anyone.
As they sat there not knowing what to say or do next, Jesus drops this bomb:
“[T]he 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.”Mark 8:31
That isn’t at all what any of you expected to come from his mouth. What… in the world… is he talking about?
They couldn’t have mistaken what he said. He said it plainly enough: he was going to suffer, be rejected – by the elders, chief priests and scribes no less – and be killed.
What?! How does that fit into anything you thought you knew?
Jesus just, basically, said that he is the Anointed One, but this…. This is just beyond baffling….
You are all speechless. Then Peter gets up, and you are thinking, “Peter will get to the bottom of this. Peter will talk some sense into him.” You hope!
“And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”Mark 8:32
Peter might have been a little strong, really. You wouldn’t have handled it that way, but Peter was… well, Peter was being Peter. You are glad he did it, and you hope that he gets through to Jesus. Things were getting weird.
You can see that Jesus is aware of all that is happening. He knows all of you are watching, waiting, silently cheering Peter on, though none of you were bold enough to say it.
He glances over at all of you and hesitates only a second. Turning his fierce gaze at Peter, Jesus says,
“‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’”Mark 8:33
You are stunned.
You are barely aware that Jesus is calling the crowd over now. (Mark 8:34) It’s like a dream. A confounding dream. Now he is talking to the crowd:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
We have the Holy Spirit and more Scripture now to guide us, but we shouldn’t be so quick in our confidence in what we think we know to presume what God is up to in the midst of our modern times. The Pharisees had Scripture too, and they knew it backward and forward, probably better than most modern Christians know Scripture.
We have the benefit of the words and stories of Jesus, of the Book of Acts, Paul’s letters and the others. We have Revelations from John too, though we can get lost in our attempts to decipher it.
But we didn’t walk with Jesus. We didn’t live with him. And we shouldn’t presume to be more knowledgeable than the disciples that Jesus hand picked to be his disciples who would carry his message to the world.
Not everything Jesus said and did was written down. (John 21:25) Not all truth was revealed by him, not that any truth might be revealed that would contradict what Jesus did say. Just as with the Old Testament, though, we are fooling ourselves to think that we might fully understand from what is written what God is doing in our times.
And even if we do, the humility that is characteristic of the fruit of the Holy Spirit would lead us to remain open to correction… always. Love is not boastful, arrogant or proud.