16 September 2012

Mark 8:27-38

"You are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things." (v. 33)


Thus speaks Jesus to Peter, when Peter again fails to fully grasp Jesus' mission and purpose during his time on Earth. Peter appears to understand just who Jesus is, but cannot gain an exact picture of what his divinity means, particularly in terms of just what Jesus will do while he is alive. I believe that we can see how this failure on Peter's part comes about. Peter clearly values Jesus' life very highly, and so, he wants to protect Jesus from all troubles and danger that may come his way. But Jesus knows that he should not, and will not stay out of the authorities' attentions for long, and thus, danger will come his way.

During Jesus' time in history, there was a sect known as the Essenes, that some scholars believe Jesus may have been part of. This group of men lived in the desert and rejected everything not be seen as divine. In doing so they thought themselves fully obedient to God's law, and not in any way be involved in a society that did not always please God. Similarly, it's interesting to note that this passage shows how some believe Jesus to be another incarnation of John the Baptist, who was particularly regarded for his dis-regard of worldly values, even to the point of living outside of the cities and towns of Palestine.

Christ, however did not do the same as either John or the Essenes. He has made the choice to exist within the city, and among people who didn't necessarily subscribe to what he was doing! To hope for the divine, while living in the murk and complexity of humanity is the great example that we are given by Jesus in his own life. But we too are called to this, and it is certainly a huge responsibility and a task of some magnitude and difficulty. Jesus even brands Peter as "Satan" (v. 33) when he is unable to grasp this concept, let alone whether he achieves what he is asked to do. We might be surprised at the strength of Jesus' reaction to one of his friends, especially when we know that Peter wants to protect his friend and master, but Jesus is reacting to the whole notion that things could be any other way. The passage finishes with the proclamation that "those who are ashamed of me and of my words …, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed" (v. 38).

Peter's defence of Christ's life, as well-meaning as it was, can also be seen as a way of avoiding the true strength of Jesus' life and purpose, and this must be avoided at all costs. Do we set our mind on human values with all the best intentions, and forget that our calling is divine? This can be as detrimental to our faith as an action that goes entirely against God's law, and both of these routes are not where we are called to be.

To Ponder

  • Are you too worldly, or too far out of the world? How can we get the same balance as Jesus?
  • When you get things wrong, as Peter does here, how do you (like him) manage to continue?

Bible notes author

Jon Curtis

Jon Curtis is a Venture FX pioneer minister in Exeter, Devon. He lives with his exceptional wife Beth, and beautiful baby Freddie.