Study | Arguing with Jesus

Mark 8:31-38

Jesus doesn’t conform to our expectations of him; he asks us to conform to who he knows himself to be and follow his example of self-denial

This story from the Bible picks up where we left off last week. If you recall from the previous study post, this Scripture directly follows the passage where Jesus declares that Peter has correctly named him the Messiah. Peter has a deep understanding of who Jesus is – and yet, here we are. How quickly we see our man abandon his Heavenly perspective for shortsighted, human understanding.

Jesus and his disciples are journeying to Caesarea Philippi. He wants to make something very clear to his followers, his friends. Jesus speaks plainly, saying that he must suffer, be rejected, and be killed so he can rise from death after three days.

Peter isn’t having this. He pulls Jesus aside, and tells him that he will not allow this to happen to his Lord.

Jesus calls Peter out on this. He turns Peter’s rebuke on its head with words that are so well known today: “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Jesus says that if Peter refuses to conform his will to God’s, he is working directly against God!

The next thing Jesus says cannot be divorced from the context of Peter’s rebuke. Peter had presumed to tell Jesus what is and is not in the very will of God. So Jesus makes this a teachable moment where he delivers one of the most important messages on what it means to be a true disciple.

To gain a deeper understanding of the full ramifications of what Jesus says, let’s read this backwards (more details here). Being ashamed of the ransom I [Jesus] paid for you cuts you off from me (38), so that there’s no ransom that can be paid for your soul (37), not even if you gained the whole world (36). You will only have your life forever if you treasure me enough to lose it for my sake, for sake of the gospel (35). Treasure me more than your own comfort and safety. The opposite of self-denial is the idol of self-gratification, and the opposite of cross-bearing is self-preservation (34). 

Wow. I am humbled by Jesus, his self-denial, and his invitation to follow. Jesus, help us set our selfishness aside and be sold out for you. Help us to see we can’t limit you, or tell you what to do. Help us understand who you are as our self-sacrificing savior, and reflect that love in our relationship with you and with others.

Questions for discussion:

  1. What does Jesus mean when he says Peter only has human concerns?
  2. Why does Jesus distinguish that a person should suffer for him and the gospel?
  3. Self-denial shows life isn’t about us or our control, but about God and his control. What does it mean for you to deny yourself?
  4. Have you ever felt like you were arguing with God? Was it over a piece of Scripture, or a conviction, etc.? What did you learn?
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