Hymns 134 Hark! the Voice of Love and Mercy Hymn 135 When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Bible Reading Mark 8: 27-38
Theme: Be Ready to Take up the Cross

In the interest of keeping to this passion week, we leave the incident of healing the blind man for now.

The travels of the Lord are to be noted. The healing of the Syrophenician woman took place in area of Tyre and Sidon, toward the coast on the north east of Israel. The deaf man was healed in the area of Decapolis, villages around the Sea (lake) of Galilee. Then the Lord took his disciples to Caesarea Philippi, 25 miles due north of Galilee.
Caesarea Philippi has a fascinating history. Situated at the foot of Mount Hermon, which is snow capped year round, it is the equivalent to Mount Baker. At Caesarea Philippi there is a deep cave with a bountiful spring of cascading water. Due to the plentiful supply of water which fed into the river Jordan, the area was considered to be the birthplace of the gods. Pantheons were built there and grottos were carved into the rock to honour the Greek and Roman gods.

Note that the Lord's teaching of the disciples was not at Caesarea Philippi, it was "by the way" (v27) to the towns in that area. The Lord did not base his teaching on the place renowned for pagan idolatry.

The Question of all Questions
"Whom do men say that I am" (v29)? This was a leading question to draw out the thoughts and convictions of the disciples. The Lord was not satisfied with what people in general were saying. He got down to the personal level, by asking, "But whom say ye that I am?"

Peter's Confession
"Thou art the Christ," Peter said. Matthew (Ch. 16:13-18) enlarges on both Peter's answer and the Lord's response pronouncing that on the truth of His person and work as the Christ, he would build His church.

The Death of all Deaths
The Lord's pronouncements in v31 were a total shock to the disciples. They had never clued into the reality that the Lord's mission was to die as a sacrifice for sin.
Note the details included in that pronouncement:

  • That Jesus was the Son of Man - the Saviour and Mediator of men.
  • That the Lord "must suffer many things." There was no evading the mission. There was no other option. He must suffer. We know that God's eternal plan was set and that Christ had undertaken, as the Redeemer of God's people, to fulfil all the prophecies of the scriptures and all the types of the O.T. concerning Himself.
  • That Jesus would be "rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests and scribes." This was known to Him.
  • That Jesus would be killed. The cross was not hidden from Him either. The Lord knew of the horrors of his death all the while he was ministering and drawing nearer to that hour.
  • That Jesus would rise again after three days. His resurrection, including the timing of it, was all preset in the purposes of God. There were no surprises to the Lord while undertaking this costly mission of laying down his life for sinners. The outcome and future rewards of His work were well known to Him.

Every detail of the Lord's sufferings and death were known to Him. They did not catch up with Him. He worked according to the plan of the Father to redeem His people. The Lord lived with this plan and he died to fulfil it.
This causes us to praise Him for His determination to fufil of all things for our salvation.

Peter's response was natural, but diabolical. It would appear that Peter sought to have a one-to-one, face-to-face meeting with the Lord to turn Him away from such a path of suffering and death.
To rebuke the Lord was the most foolish thing that Peter ever tried. Perhaps his personal loyalty caused a blind spot, but the reader of this account must conclude that Peter had no clue about the mission of redemption.
Each of the disciples needed to be fully instructed and even then it took the unfolding of events to bring things to full reality.
While Peter may have tried to respond privately, the Lord rebuked him publicly (v33). All heard the Lord's reply,

"Get thee behind me, Satan."

The force of the Lord's rebuke to Peter shows the strength of conviction for His mission. He would not be turned and any who would turn him from the path to the cross would be doing the devil's work. Hence He referred to Peter as Satan.

The closing scene shows the Lord gathering all the people along with the disciples to expound on the self-denial required to follow Him.
The Christ of the cross seeks followers to take up the cross. Our cross is not made of wood, but of earthly scorn. The Lord got to the heart of the issue of the believer's cross-bearing in verse 38,

"Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this sinful and adulterous generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

This hits us right where it hurts in every day in life. We are called to be lights for the Lord and to never put our light under a bushel. Yet, the flesh within us pleads against confessing Christ before the ungodly. There is a root of un-crucified nature in us that is the enemy of the cross. The flesh seeks the friendship of the world and it's well-done. The cross-bearer, however, seeks the well done of the Lord at His appearing. Sadly, too many Christians who are willing to sing of the cross and even thank God for the cross in their prayers of thanksgiving will not speak of the cross of Christ to the world. We all love Easter and its focus on Christ's cross, let us also labour to confess Christ and His redeeming work before the world.

"But all who accept this great salvation, must prove the reality of their faith by carrying the cross after Christ. They must not think to enter heaven without trouble, pain, suffering, and conflict on earth. They must be content to take up the cross of doctrine, and the cross of practice - the cross of holding a faith which the world despises, and the cross of living a life which the world ridicules as too strict and righteous overmuch. They must be willing to crucify the flesh, to mortify the deeds of the body, to fight daily with the devil, to come out from the world and to lose their lives, if needful, for Christ's sake and the gospel's. The words of our Lord are plain and unmistakable. If we will not carry the cross, we shall never wear the crown." J.C. Ryle

No cross: No crown!