And 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?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:27-38 ESV)
This is a great text, actually one of my favorites. And this morning I heard a wonderful sermon preached on this about standing up in the face of injustice, and how we are guaranteed 2 things, death and taxes… No no no that is what the world gives us, but God gives us death and Resurrection. We want only the latter, but we have to do the first in order to get the second… But I digress…
I love this text for many reasons.
First it shows us the disciples are just like us. You see in the beginning Peter gets it! Jesus if the Christ, the Messiah the chosen one of God who has come to lead us into God’s kingdom! But then Jesus turns around and Peter gets stupid! Has that ever happened to you. You got it one minute you are there with God and everything is going along great and then you look around like what is going on here… The disciples were slow in the up take sometimes, so that should give all of us courage and hope to go on!
Second it has some stuff we can not see in the English. In verse 33 Jesus says to Peter, “ὀπίσω μου”. Now you are probably looking at the screen funny and scrolling up to see, no that is not what Jesus said, he said “Get behind me.” And you are correct, that is one translation for ὀπίσω μου. But not the only way to translate that phrase. First of all lets look at the last word μου – this is a form of me. So the phrase would be _______ me. Hence the get behind. But just what is ὀπίσω?
It does mean “1) back, behind, after, afterwards 1a) of place: things that are behind 1b) of time: after” yet it also means to follow. It is one of the words used in the New Testament to say follow. The other times we see follow in our text today is ἀκολουθέω which means “1) to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant, accompany him 2) to join one as a disciple, become or be his disciple 2a) side with his party”. This word means more of an accompanying than follow behind. ὀπίσω μου is saying get behind me and know your place. I am the one sent from above, and you do not get to make the decision based upon what you think you know.
How many times do we do things because we think that is what God wants us to do? Because that is what we learned in Sunday School or at church? We learned that this is the way we need to do things for church. This is how we have to dress when we come to church and if someone comes in not dressed that we we need to inform them they are not welcomed. Or if they act in a way that is unbecoming, because we all know that Jesus surrounded himself with perfect disciples who got it right the first time and always… And we know only perfect people are accepted by God. (if this is the case we are all in big trouble!)
It is not up to us or our ways. Our ways are not God’s ways, and sometimes the stuff we learned is not the right way! Jesus came to show us the way and to help us see that it is not as clear as we thought.
So again if you have the bumper sticker “God is my Co-pilot” I think you better switch seats, and if you can’t see the back of Jesus’ head, you might want to slow down, and get in the right place….
Follow Jesus and the trip will be magnificent, but make sure you can always see your guide!