Following Jesus: An Unexpected Turn

Unexpected Turn | Mark 8:29-34

“But you,” He asked them again, “who do you say that I am? ” Peter answered Him, “You are the Messiah! ” And He strictly warned them to tell no one about Him. Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. He was openly talking about this. So Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning around and looking at His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan, because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s! ” Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8:29-34 HCSB)

Driving in fog is one of the most disorienting things I’ve ever experienced. I really, really hate it. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often where I live. If you’ve ever experienced it, you know what I mean. You can’t see very well or very far and anticipate what might happen next. You’re unable to see obstacles or turns and you must try and drive safely in the short distance of road that you can see. Even if you are driving on a stretch of road that you know quite well, driving it in heavy fog conditions can still cause great anxiety.

I recently heard about a team of workers who drive snow plows in conditions where the road cannot be seen because of the amount of snow. They have a guidance system that utilizes very precise GPS coordinates to enable them to remove the heavy snow regardless of the road or weather conditions. They drive almost entirely using this system and must rely upon the accuracy and reliability of the software and the GPS tracking equipment to keep them safe and on the road. Talk about stressful and difficult. Good grief, Charlie Brown.

What happens when your life is like driving in fog? When the obstacles and turns are unseen and unanticipated? Does life become anxious and nerve racking for you under those conditions? In this week’s focal passage, Peter is thrown into similar conditions. He simply didn’t see this hard right turn coming and it appears to have caused a great deal of confrontation, stress and anxiety.

As you’ll recall from last week, Jesus had asked the disciples who the crowds thought He was and then who they thought He was. The crowds thought He was John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets. BUZZ! Wrong answer! But you, who do YOU say I am? Peter answered, “You are the Messiah!” DING, DING, DING! Great answer, Peter! Then He strictly warned them to tell no one about Him. I’m certain that they don’t understand why Jesus warned them to keep this to themselves but, so far, they’re doing good.

This week we want need to focus in on what happens next. Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and then rise after three days. Then Mark says, “He was openly talking about this.” So, He wants them to keep quiet about who He is – the Messiah – but begins to openly and publicly teach them about what MUST happen to Him. He must suffer, must be rejected, must be killed and must rise after three days.

Wait, what did Jesus just say? Who do you say I am? You are the Messiah, the promised One of God. Good, you get it. God’s Spirit has helped you see who I am. Now, don’t tell anyone who I am but let me tell you where this is all going. I must suffer. I must be rejected by the Jewish religious establishment. I must be killed and I must rise again after three days. This is what the Messiah MUST do because this is God’s will. This is the hard right turn in the fog that Peter and the other disciples couldn’t see coming. What happens when you can’t see or anticipate a hard right turn? You will likely crash and crash hard and very, very unexpectedly.

Why didn’t they see it and anticipate it? Simply because their cultural view and understanding of the Messiah didn’t go in that direction. As a result, Peter responds by pulling Jesus aside and rebuking Him. Yes, you heard that right. Peter, who had just proclaimed that Jesus is the Messiah, now begins to rebuke Jesus because of his view and understanding of God’s plan. He rebukes Jesus, the Messiah, because of his presumptions and misunderstandings regarding God’s Word and his cultural, political and religious biases.

Peter assumes his will, desires and expectations for the Messiah and God’s were the same. They WEREN’T! Peter was heading in one direction and God was headed in another. So, Peter pulls Jesus aside and rebukes His view and understanding of God’s will for His life. Now, to be fair, Peter wasn’t the only one who had this wrong. So did the religious leadership of Israel. The very people who were trained in Old Testament theology, who thought they understood Gods Word and His desires for their lives and taught it to others, had it wrong, so very wrong!

You might think I’m overreacting and making too much of Peter’s rebuke, but Jesus’ response to Peter indicates I’m not: “Get behind me, Satan, because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s!” What would lead to such a rebuke? Man’s concerns? To be honest, I think Peter was simply expressing the thoughts and feelings of the entire group of disciples and probably the crowds, too. In fact, I think Peter was also reflecting the thoughts and feelings of Jesus’ enemies. Let that thought sink in a bit. A suffering, rejected, crucified servant savior was just not the kind of Messiah they were expecting. He was everything they needed, but certainly NOT what they wanted.

Let me ask you a question: How often do our desires, assumptions and expectations of Jesus reflect the desires, assumptions and expectations of His enemies more than they do of God’s? Would He say to us, “Get behind me, Satan, you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but your own!”

There are four things that Jesus says must happen for His life to be aligned with God’s plan: 1) Suffering, 2) Rejection, 3) Death, 4) Timely Resurrection. The path of God’s will is the path of suffering. The path of God’s will is the path of rejection. The path of God’s will is the path of the cross, cruel crucifixion and death. But this very, very painful path of God is the only path that leads to resurrection and victory because it is the path of obedience to God’s perfect will and purpose for Jesus.

And therein lies our struggle. God’s plan for us is to embrace this specific Messiah that God sent. Jesus is the kind of Messiah we need and we are to follow Him on this same, difficult path. Yes, we are to walk the same path this suffering Messiah walked. The same path this culturally, politically and religiously rejected Messiah walked. The same path where He died a humiliating death but was gloriously resurrected after just three days. Yes, that path. That is the path God sent Jesus to walk and it is the same one He expects us to walk as we follow Him.

Will you rebuke Him and suffer His scathing response or will you humbly and obediently follow Him down this path?

Mark has spent the first half of his story showing us who Jesus is. He’s the Son of Man (human) and the Son of God (divine). There has NEVER been anyone else like Him. When He asked the disciples who the people thought He was, they saw Him as just a great teacher, a prophet of God. But when He asked who they thought He was, Peter responded correctly: You are the Messiah. But Peter wanted a Messiah that would fit his expectations and his assumptions. He wanted a Messiah who would do things Peter’s way. Instead, he got a scathing rebuke from Jesus and a difficult lesson in the kind of Messiah God had sent.

We often want the same thing. We want God who will do things our way, the easy way. But God isn’t going to give us what we want but He will give us what we need. He gives us a servant who is willing to humbly suffer. He gives us a king who is rejected by the establishment and the people but chosen by God. He gives us a savior who is crucified as a criminal even when there’s no fault in Him. But He gives us all of these things to silence men and destroy our false, religious pride and selfish ambitions.

Like Peter, we aren’t concerned with what God wants but we’re obsessed with what we want.

I need you to hear Jesus response: Get behind Me, Satan.

Instead of following Jesus, Peter was trying to lead the way. He wanted to determine the best path for Jesus and, ultimately, for himself – his own path to God, his own path of obedience and of blessing. And that’s why Jesus called him Satan. Don’t you remember? Satan had tried to lead Jesus down this same easy path towards the world’s acceptance and personal glory. Just bow down, give your allegiance to me and I’ll give you all this world has to offer. No struggles? No rejection? No humiliation? No suffering? No dying? No problem! Just kneel.

Get behind Me, Satan. You aren’t thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s!

Who will you follow? Will you turn around, get behind and follow Jesus or will you stay on your own, easy path? Trust me, for all of eternity you’ll know the difference by who you follow.

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