By Rev. German Novelli-Oliveros
Text: Mark 8:27-38
27 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?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Imagine for a moment that you are walking on the path of your life, tired of everything that burdens you. Perhaps you have some wounds on your knees or hands fro
m those many times you fell. At this point, you carry within you some sadness, due to some bad experiences you had to face in the past. And you also have with you some joy, the joy of that beautiful scenery you could see for a while, or those good people
you met along the way. You keep walking forward, never back, reflecting on everything that has happened to you, learning from every step you take, and dreaming, finally to reach your destination.
But you are not walking alone. Beside you is the person who has loved you most, whom you call Lord. Yes, Jesus. Jesus is there with you in your walk. Who do you think helped you up when you fell.? Or who do you think was there to introduce you these great people you met along the way.?
And, if for a moment Christ stops his walking . . . looks you in the eyes . . . puts his hand on your shoulder . . . and asks: “Who do people say that I am?”
What would you respond? What would you say?
Maybe, you would say that He is a famous person in the world . . . that history of mankind is divided into two parts: before and after Him. Perhaps, you will say that many people think He is a revolutionary, who came to save the poor. Or maybe, you would tell Him what we learned from Discovery Channel, that He was just a great preacher of the ancient world . . . Or a prophet! As some religions have claimed.
You see, today’s world has many opinions about who Jesus is. Many answers to the same question.
Imagine now that both of you still walk a little more, then he stops you again. . . He looks you in the eyes. . . put his hand on your shoulder. . . and asks: “Who do YOU say that I am?”
Now, it is not about others, or the world, or opinion that society has about Christ. . . It is personal now. . . Now this is between you and Him. What would you say?
My dear friends, the world has many opinions about Jesus.
In today’s world there are many theologians trying to explain many things about Jesus; and what they do, is confuse more and more people, and they forget that this is not about a religion, but about a relationship with the Lord.
My father used to say that God gives us His Word and sends us His Holy Spirit so that we can understand it. . . but the devil has created theologians to confuse us.
Who is He for you? Who is Jesus Christ in your life? Who is he?
Are you ready to confess Him? . . . in a world that does not yet know Him. Are you willing to set your eyes on Him, and to set Jesus in your mind, your heart and your life.? Are you willing to follow him, to take your cross full of suffering, deny yourself, and follow Him every day of your life.?
“Who do you say that I am?”
With this question, Christ opened the eyes of Peter, perhaps one of his closest disciples, the group’s leader, who empowered by the Holy Spirit said:
“You are the Christ (The Messiah),”
Peter confessed that Christ is truly the Son of God, promised in the Scriptures, who would come to save mankind and restore the broken relationship between God and His people.
But . . . the gospel says. . . that Christ began teaching about the pain that He would suffer to achieve salvation. . . and this is the part that Peter did not like.
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
We all love to hear about the victorious Christ … Christ the Victor! The one who was promised by the prophets. . .The one who was coming to conquer evil, death, and destroy the sin in the world. . .The one who had to come to be light for those living in darkness, to be bread of life for those who are hungry and in need, and to be living water to those who thirst for justice.
Most of us don’t like to talk about the cross. . . or about the blows and wounds. . . or to talk about the insults and mockery He received. . . about the blood and nails. . . or to talk about the thorns and tears.
But Peter, the leader, the boss, who confessed -just a moment ago- that Jesus was the Christ, now he dared to question his Master.
Then Peter took him aside, and began to criticize Jesus.
33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Jesus was not saying that Peter is Satan. But, He said that setting our minds on human desires, denying the cross and Christ’s suffering for our sins and for our salvation, and to reject the work of Christ, it is what Satan wants.
The devil wants you to think like the world thinks about Jesus. He wants you to have your own opinion about Christ, not the real one, the one that God has revealed in the Scriptures. Satan wants for your life to set your mind on the things of men, and not on God’s.
But God does not leave you alone. He knows you need him to win, and that you need Him to confess with your mouth, and believe in your heart, that Jesus Christ is Lord. So in the same way He did with Peter, He does it with you today, and sends His Holy Spirit to lead you to believe in Christ, to confess Him, so you set your mind, your heart, and your life, on Him, so you can follow Him.
And following Jesus is no an easy task. It is easier to stay at home and watch TV. It’s not easy. But He continues inviting you, and me, to become followers of his work, preachers of His truth, and light to those who live in darkness. And today, He tells you:
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel (The Good News), will save it.”
To deny ourselves means to reject our human desires. Our flesh always wants a taste of sin, the pleasure we get from things of this world, and to act just as we want to act. This is to believe in God in our own way, not God’s way. This is to deny God and live with the idea that everything will be fine if we trust in ourselves.
To take up the cross and follow Jesus is to accept suffering. This is to recognize that life is not easy, and that sin has produced all our wickedness, the illnesses of this world, and our sufferings. Many people will blame God for the things that happen, many will claim God is guilty because He is almighty and does nothing to save us … and they don’t see the painful suffering of Christ for our sake, so we can live in the hope of his promises, and in the eternal joy of his resurrection.
Confess, set your mind on him, follow him everywhere
In the text, we see these three very important things.
The first one is that we must confess that Jesus is the Christ. We are called to discard what the world thinks and says about Him, and believe in our heart what He eveals about Himself in t
he Word. Many people will say that he is only a prophet, a revolutionary from the first century, or a great leader in history. But you, in the middle of your path of life, you walk with Him, you stand up -inspired by the Holy Spirit- to confess with your lips, and with faith in your heart, that Jesus Christ is your Lord, who came to earth to suffer the death you deserve, and to give life to those who are dying in sin, and also to open the eyes of those who are blind in their own beliefs. Confess him! As Peter did, confess him. Because He is there, standing in front of you, looking into your eyes, and asking you: Who am I to you?
The second is that you must set your mind, your life, your eyes, your heart on Him. It is not useful to put all your strengh in the things of this world, which are not eternal. Have you seen a rich man taking all his money to heaven or hell? There are no banks there. Have you heard about the US. Heavenly Bank? or about the Jesus and Peter (JP) Morgan Chase Bank?
Set your heart, your mind, your strength, your love, your life in Jesus and trust Him all that you are, because His plan is to give you eternal life and eternal joy of life in heaven.
And finally, the third thing, is that we are called to follow Him together. He continues inviting us to take our crosses, our sufferings, and our sadness, and follow Him. It is not easy,sometimes it is not the most funny thing to do, but it is the road that leads to the victory of salvation.
-Confess him (with your lips), and believe him (in your heart). . .
-Set your mind (all that you are) in Him. . .
-Follow him . . deny yourself, and what you want, take up your cross and follow him everywhere.
In this task, you are not alone. . .
God sends His Holy Spirit to put each word in your mouth, and every pound of faith in your heart.To confess Him as Peter did, and to surrender your life before Him, and also to follow Him wherever He leads you.
Remember that Christ is good and right, and He has promised to be our mediator with the Father. Jesus loves us so much that He gave His life for us, forgives us even when we cannot confess Him, all the time and in all places; gives us life even when we have not set our heart on Him; and keeps walking with us, even when we have refused to carry our crosses.
My dear brothers and sisters, life is a long path, full of joys and sorrows, beautiful landscapes and full of moments of tears and pain, good and bad people we have met, but the most important thing is that your Savior, the Christ, the Lord, will not leave you alone, but He always walks beside you.
Confess, Set your eyes on Him, and follow Him. . . Amen.