Mark 8:1-10, 27-38 NIV: During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and then he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and rebuked him.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
There are certain people that we either love or hate. Kanye West. Taylor Swift. The Duck Dynasty folks. Tim Tebow. These people provoke a response just by being themselves. They are what you might call “polarizing personalities.” They are so influential, controversial, and “out there” that people have to decide what to do with them!
Jesus is a lot like this. He provoked a response. People were all in – or not.
At this stage in the game, Jesus is uber-popular. 4,000 people are following him around. That’s amazing! That’s half the population of the town I grew up in. Jesus is taking the world by storm.
Yet there are a wide variety of opinions about Jesus. Some love him. Some hate him. Some just don’t know what to do with him but they’re happy to gain from him!
People know he can do cool stuff. He heals people and casts out demons. But now Jesus is going to really shock them. He feeds them miraculously. It’s spectacular. There are baskets left over. But after eating, everyone just heads home. They follow Jesus because of what he can do. Then once he has taken care of them, they’re packing their bags and then they’re off.
They don’t really know who he is or what he is all about – they think he is some kind of prophet. Like Elijah, John the Baptist, or the other prophets Jesus seems to have a similarly wild and bold ministry that threatens the corrupt establishment and that calls people back to God. But fundamentally, they don’t understand who he is – “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). No – they are only interested in Jesus because they think he can really make their lives better here and now.
In fact, the views of the crowd come out in Peter himself. Peter embodies the crowd: “You are the Christ,” Peter says one minute, but then has the gall to rebuke Jesus the next minute for teaching them that he will be rejected and killed. Peter wants a fair-weather Jesus. He wants a lollipop and bubble-gum Jesus. He wants a messiah-king to bring peace and prosperity. He wants the American Dream – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
But Jesus will take them to life, liberty, and happiness by a completely different route.
He will take them there by the way of the cross.
And a bloody, Roman crucifixion is the last thing Peter wants for this exciting, dynamic movement he is now a part of.
So each of us must answer honestly Jesus’ question: but who do you say that I am?
People embrace all sorts of different “Jesuses.” Which Jesus do you embrace? The Jesus who gives good gifts without demands? Or the Jesus who calls you to follow him to the cross, to lose your life in order to find it. Or…do you, like the Pharisees, reject Jesus entirely?
For each of us, Jesus calls us to come and die. According to church tradition, Peter was in fact crucified. He died following Jesus. Again, Jesus’ call is radical: come and lose your life! Come and be rejected by your friends and family! What?!? Even your friends??? Yes – come and be the uncool Christian kid. Come and be that guy.
Because if we do not come to him as Lord we do not come to him at all.
But those who do lose their lives for him will find their souls.
Those who embrace him as Saviour and Lord will find that when he returns in glory, as Lord of All, they too will be glorified.
The cost is worth paying.