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Mark 8:31-33 – Well-Meant but Wrong

Have you ever heard someone use this phrase? “Well… he had good intentions,” or “he meant well.” Those statement often follow a story which didn’t turn out well. A number of people have looked at the government’s response to the COVID epidemic and had similar responses. Many people were forced to take a quickly produced vaccine to “save lives.” The well-meaning people who implemented the vaccine mandate are now having difficulty explaining the unexpected symptoms some have experienced after taking the vaccine. In such cases, the health officials had good intentions, but the results were not always good. As one author has said, “Bad decisions made with good intentions, are still bad decisions.”9

During our study today, we will see how someone had good intentions but was very wrong. The story is a follow up to what happened in our previous message. Jesus had asked the disciples who people thought He was. The answers varied from John the Baptist to Elijah to one of the prophets. But when Jesus asked the disciples who they thought He was, Peter stated their belief that Jesus was the Christ. The disciples were right. But Jesus told them to keep this truth to themselves for the moment. He was still not ready to reveal Himself to the general populace. This incident leads us up to the passage we will study today where Jesus reveals his future suffering to the disciples (Mark 8:31-33).

During our study of the Gospel of Mark, we have seen Jesus slowly revealing truths to people. Sometimes, he would speak in parables, while at other times he would speak quite plainly. In today’s paragraph, we will see how Jesus finally announced something about His future plan. What He announced was quite surprising to the disciples.

What does it say?

After the disciples had acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ, He taught them that He, the Son of Man, must suffer, be rejected by the religious leaders, be killed, and rise again after three days. He did not hide these facts from them but declared them openly. After hearing these things, Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him for saying these things. Apparently, Peter thought Jesus was wrong to have such negative thoughts. In response, Jesus turned, looked at His disciples (perhaps to get their attention), and then rebuked Peter. Although he was rebuking Peter, the words Jesus said were addressed to Satan. He told him to get behind Him because he was not focused on what God wanted but what man wanted.

What does it mean?

In this passage, there are three thoughts that we should consider.

Jesus was focused on God’s plan for Himself (Mark 8:31-32a).

“After Peter declared that Jesus is the Messiah (v. 29), He … began to teach them what this meant. … Contrary to popular messianic expectations, Jesus had not come to establish an earthly messianic kingdom at that time.”1 Instead, Jesus told them that He must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and rise again after three days. This was not something the disciples were expecting to hear. But Jesus knew this to be the Father’s will for Him and had accepted this.

The disciples must have been shocked by this. But did you notice how Jesus stated the facts. He said that it must happen. In God’s perfect plan, this was what He wanted to happen at this point. Jesus’ suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection were all a part of the Father’s plan to redeem mankind from sin, death, and Hell. “These things ‘must’ … take place, …for without them he could not redeem the world.”6 And because Jesus knew that, He was focused on fulfilling the Father’s plan for Him and could not be convinced to do anything else.

Did you notice that Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man? What does this title mean? There are two ways to look at this title.

First, there are some who say that this title refers to His humanity and humility. “Son of man is simply a periphrastic term for ‘human.’ Jesus Christ was truly a human being. He came ‘in the flesh’ (1 John 4:2).”10 It also shows His humility in coming from heaven to become a man. Using the title in this way would have kept most people from considering Him the Messiah. It was more ambiguous and allowed Him to talk about Himself without any promise of being the political savior of the nation.

Second, the term is used by Daniel to describe the future ruler of Israel. Read the following passage and tell me who you think this was describing.

Daniel 7:13 – “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”

Does this sound like an ambiguous title that would not offend the religious leaders? If the people were at all familiar with Daniel’s prophecy, they would have thought Jesus was referring to Himself as the Messiah. In either case, Jesus here described Himself (God who humbly became man or the promised Messiah) as doing something entirely different than expected.

Peter was focused on what he wanted to happen (Mark 8:32b).

The disciples had just heard Jesus talk of His future suffering and death. “The very thought of seeing their beloved Master, whom they had just confessed as the Christ, a bleeding, murdered victim of the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem must have overwhelmed the disciples.”7 While Jesus also told them about His resurrection, all they could hear was suffering and death. “Peter clearly understood Jesus’ words (8:31), but could not reconcile his view of ‘Messiah’ (v. 29b) with the suffering and death Jesus predicted. So he began to rebuke Him for this defeatist approach.”2 “His human desire to spare his Master such sufferings prompted Peter to urge Jesus to avoid the very suffering to which Jesus had committed Himself.”5

Do you blame Peter for reacting this way? Obviously, we know more than Peter did at this point. We know that Jesus came to die for our sins. And if He did not die for us, we would have no hope of escaping God’s judgment. But if we were the disciples back then, had just stated our belief in Jesus as the Christ, and then were told that he would suffer and die, what would our response have been? We would have responded the same way. May it never be!

I would like you to notice one more thing. Jesus told the disciples that he would suffer and die but did not give them the reason for His death. I wonder why. Perhaps they were not ready to receive the truth at that time. And as we find out later, on the road to Emmaus, they definitely did not understand why Jesus had to die until He explained it to them after His resurrection. Their ignorance led to their response.

Satan was influencing the disciples away from God’s plan (Mark 8:33).

Jesus’ response to Peter is abrupt and pointed. “He fully realized that back of Peter stood Satan, who was attempting once more … to turn the attention of Jesus away from the cross.”8 He turns so that all of the disciples could hear His response and rebukes Peter while addressing Satan for his evil influence. This must have been a shock to Peter and the others. Was Jesus saying that Peter was actually Satan? No, I don’t think that is the case. Instead, “Peter was an unwitting spokesman for Satan because he was setting his mind … not on the things of God, His ways and purposes (cf. Isa. 55:8-9), but on the things of men, human values and viewpoints.”3

The fact is that Satan has a way of influencing people that is not always obvious. Jesus saw Peter’s words as another temptation from Satan to avoid the coming suffering and death on the cross. Peter wasn’t possessed by Satan but his words were influenced by the focus of Satan to disobey God’s perfect will. How often does this happen to God’s people? Every day, the world, the flesh, and the devil influence God’s people to respond poorly to God’s will. This is a great danger.

How does it apply?

As you look at Jesus’ announcement and Peter’s response, there are two applications for us.

Jesus willingly allowed Himself to suffer and die for you.

Toward the end of this Gospel record, we will read about what happened to Jesus during his trial and on the cross. The suffering that He endured for you and me was severe. The crown of thorns, the punches, the scourging, the carrying of the cross, the crucifixion—all of this suffering, He willingly endured for you and me. And finally His blood was shed on the cross to pay for our sins. All of this He did for us.

Why was Jesus willing to do this for us? It certainly wasn’t because we deserved His love. Our sins against God are many. One author has referred to our sins as the sand on the seashore. And yet, He lovingly provided a way for our offense to be covered by His blood. And now because of what Jesus did, we can be reconciled to the One whom we have offended by our many sins.

Although it was a great sacrifice for us, would you want Jesus to not go to the cross? We certainly do not enjoy the fact that He suffered, but without Him and that suffering, where would we be? And today, where are you in relation to Jesus? Have you placed your faith in what He did on the cross for you? If not, will you trust Him today? Turn from your sins and trust in Jesus alone and you will find forgiveness and a new life in Him.

What is your focus today?

A second application deals with our own response to God’s will. In this particular situation, Peter was focused on what seemed best to him when in reality he was being influenced by Satan to not focus on God’s perfect plan. Peter’s response probably came from a good heart and was given with good motives, but it was wrong. His focus was the opposite of what God wanted to happen.

This shows us that we need to be careful about what we make our focus. Are we focusing on what we think is best without consulting God for His will? Sometimes our idea of what is best may be different from what God wants. To avoid this conflict, we need to meditate on what God has already revealed in the Bible, pray for discernment and direction, and then follow God’s plan even if it goes against what we would like to happen.

Sometimes God’s will doesn’t make sense to us. In our minds, we think that we have everything figured out. But we have to come to the place where we let God determine what is best. We have to trust that God knows what is best. It may be that you are struggling with God’s will today. If so, you know what you need to do. You need to give over your will and your desires to God and let Him lead you to the right solution. That may not be easy. But when you do that, there will be a great relief. You will find God’s peace and will eventually see that His way is perfect.

Conclusion

I wonder how the disciples felt that day when they heard Jesus rebuke Peter. They must have been very surprised—especially when they heard Him address him as Satan. They had all been surprised earlier when Jesus revealed His future suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection. But now this? Didn’t they all want Jesus to live and continue His ministry? Wouldn’t it be better for Jesus to keep healing the sick and teaching the truth to the crowds? All of these and many more thoughts must have gone through their minds as they walked down the road with their Master. But there would come a day when what Jesus said would actually happen. And when that happened their lives would be changed forever.

Footnotes

1 Grassmick 139-40.
2 Grassmick 140.
3 Grassmick 140.
4 McGee 197.
5 Hiebert 238.
6 Lenski 338.
7 Lenski 340.
8 Hendriksen 328.
9 Collins, Jim, How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In, as viewed at https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/544138-bad-decisions-made-with-good-intentions-are-still-bad-decisions on 2/17/2024.
10 “What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of Man?” as viewed at https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-Son-of-Man.html on 2/17/2024.

Bibliography

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

Hendriksen, William, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: BJU Press, 1994.

Lenski, R. C. H., Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1946.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 4, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.

Ryle, J. C., Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume One, Matthew — Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977, p.167-68.