Palm Sunday Sermon
“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 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.’” (Mark 8:27-33)
Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the Christ was a pivotal moment for Jesus’ disciples. When Peter made this confession we are told by Matthew that Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (16:17)
There were so many views about who Jesus was. Some thought Jesus was John the Baptist. Some thought that He was Elijah or one of the prophets. But Peter was made to see that Jesus was the Christ. Jesus was the promised King who was to come. In that moment Peter could have quoted Psalm 145:1, “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.”
Having confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the last thing that the disciples could believe was that Jesus would soon suffer and die. That might happen to John the Baptist or one of the prophets but not to the Messiah. The King was supposed to reign forever. The Jews expected Jesus to conquer the Romans and to liberate them from all earthly powers. They could not imagine any scenario in which the Messiah would be beaten, flogged and crucified.
Jesus, however, knew what would happen to Him. This was the purpose for which he had come into the world. In Matthew 23: 37 Jesus looks at the city of Jerusalem and weeps saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!”
From the moment that Peter had confessed that Jesus was the Christ Jesus began to head towards Jerusalem. As they traveled Jesus began to teach His disciples that he would suffer many things at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. He spoke very plainly about these things to His disciples (Mt. 16:21-22; Mark 8:31-32). He would get even more graphic about His suffering saying, “They will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him, and kill Him. And after three days He will rise.” (Mark 10:34)
The thought of this was so unconscionable to Peter that he pulls Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him. I cannot recall another moment in which the disciples rebuked Jesus for something He had said or did. They had often been confused and puzzled by some of the things that Jesus taught but they never rebuked Him like Peter does here. Jesus was the Teacher and they were the disciples and it would have seemed inappropriate under any other circumstance to do what Peter does here. Peter could not fathom, comprehend or imagine any scenario in which Jesus was going to suffer. Peter’s rebuke is met with a strong response by Jesus who said to him in front of the other disciples, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
As I contemplate this I wonder how many times I could find myself rebuking Jesus and His teaching? How many times might I say, This doctrine cannot be right? This theology cannot be true? This teaching has to be wrong because no one in our culture believes this way?
As I consider Jesus’ response to Peter, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”, I am soberly aware of just how often Jesus could rebuke me like this every day. Oh, I could weep at the amount of time that I think so naturally like a man and not like God would have me too. It would be a welcomed grace, and a welcomed rebuke, to receive correction from Him for thinking this way.
Paul had to rebuke the churches for the way that they were thinking. Consider 2 Corinthians 11:1-4, “I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one your received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.”
Some of these strongholds are hard to overcome. Therefore Jesus began to teach His disciples often about the suffering that was approaching. Every time that Jesus would mention His suffering and death it seemed to bring to the surface some sins within them.
In Mark 8 Peter rebukes Jesus when Jesus speaks of His suffering (8:32)
In Mark 9 the disciples argued with one another about who was the greatest as Jesus speaks of His suffering (9:34)
In Mark 10 James and John wanted to be allowed to sit in the highest places of honor in Jesus’ Kingdom as Jesus spoke about His suffering. Their request made the other disciples indignant. (10:41)