Mark 8:27-35
Rebuking one another by Rev. Jerome A. Magat
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?"  They said in reply, "John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets."  And he asked them.  "But who do you say that I am?"  Peter said to him in reply, "You are the Christ."  Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.  He spoke this openly.  Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it."

The dramatic scene portrayed in this week’s Gospel according to St. Mark is often known as Peter’s confession of faith.  Peter, speaking for the other disciples, declares or confesses that Jesus is the Christ, or “the anointed one.”  In St. Matthew’s portrayal of this precise scene, Jesus tells Peter that “flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”  This declaration helps us to understand that Peter was not simply speaking for himself or for the other disciples.  Rather, he is given infused knowledge from the Father himself so as to reveal Jesus’ true identity to the disciples.  Therefore, Peter’s confession of faith is not simply his opinion.  In this moment, Peter serves as God’s instrument to help others know who Jesus really is.


After Peter’s declaration of Jesus’ identity, a moment of great joy, Jesus begins to teach the disciples openly that as the Christ, He will have to suffer greatly, be rejected by the elders of the Jewish nation, be killed and then raised after three days.  In this sudden shift of tone from joy to sorrow, Jesus links His identity as the Christ with a Messiah who must suffer, in fulfillment of the suffering servant image given to us in the Book of Isaiah.  Given this sudden shift in tone, we can understand why Peter would so quickly rebuke Jesus.  From a human perspective, Peter is perplexed.  He cannot understand how the Savior is supposed to save the world by suffering.  It is interesting to note here that Peter had just made a confession of faith based on infused knowledge from heaven.  Moments later, he has returned to earth and rebukes Jesus for linking his messianic mission to suffering.


In return, Jesus rebukes Peter with immensely powerful language.  He says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  Why does Jesus practically equate Peter’s rebuke to something Satan would say or had said?  If we examine the dialog between Jesus and Satan in the desert during 40 days following Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, we observe that a central theme in the devil’s temptation of Christ was the temptation for Jesus to abandon His mission of doing the Father’s will.  The Father’s will consisted in Jesus suffering and dying for the salvation of the whole world.  So, when Jesus heard Peter’s rebuke, it quickly reminded Jesus of His battle with Satan during the 40 days of temptation in the desert.  Having overcome these temptations, Jesus rejects anyone who would re-introduce them.


The remainder of the Gospel passage is a continuation of Jesus’ teaching that in order to enhoy the glory that He can offer, the faithful disciple must learn to endure and persevere through the crosses that are given him.  From a human perspective, the cross is folly and Peter’s rebuke of Jesus makes perfect sense.  For those who have eyes of faith, the cross and the suffering that accompanies it is the gateway to eternal life.


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