In our Gospel reading today, Jesus on His way to the villages around Caesarea Philippi asked His disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’” (Mk 8:27-38). Jesus’ question is to lead to a missional and theological renewal. The disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” Jesus again directly asked His disciples “But what about you?’ He asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’” Peter said, “You are the Messiah.” Peter’s understanding of the word “Messiah” was missionally and theologically different from what Jesus actually was, hence He wanted his disciples to be quiet about His identity. Peter had the right word, but a missionally flawed theology and concept of what the Messiah would do just as many today has right words – grace, love, joy but with a flawed theological concept. Peter’s flawed theology and concept of Messiah expressed more love than discretion, a zeal for Christ and His safety, but not according to knowledge. Peter’s flawed theology is shaped by public opinion survey and debate on what some says who Jesus is. Peter’s flawed theology and concept warns that ‘it is a dangerous thing to make decisions based on our immediate feelings failing to first consider God’s plan, purpose and Word. Peter’s flawed theology and concept with his ‘air of protective superiority’ lacks true Biblical discernment.[1] Jesus’ new revelation about Himself was contrary to Peter’s expectation and he took Jesus “aside and began to rebuke him.” The Peter in each of us and as a church remains missionally and theologically inconsistent, in ‘one minute, Peter declares Jesus to be the leader God sent to his people. The next minute, Peter is contradicting his God-appointed leader.’ Beloved, is the Peter in each of us contradicting the Messiah?

Jesus’ words deeply disturbed Peter and his flawed theology just as God’s word disturbs many today thereby finding it very hard to obey. Today, are we not trying to correct Jesus and His words just as Peter took Jesus aside and corrected Him? Jesus rebuked Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said.” It is very dangerous to oppose God and His Words. Just as Jesus called Peter Satan, the Hebrew word for “adversary,” opposer of God’s plan, we are guilty of Peter’s offence when we oppose God’s plan and Words. Just as Jesus asked Peter to get behind Him as his leader, the Messiah, and not to try to get in front and lead, God is calling the church today to get behind Jesus and follow Him in total obedience and humility. The problem of Peter which resonates with the problem of the church and many Christians today is that, we do not know where we are going; we “do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Peter’s thinking like many today is about the things that ordinary human beings thinks about – love, freedom, safety, security, pleasure and comfort. God is rebuking the Church, “Get behind me Satan.” God is calling for a repentance and renewal. The Good News is that Peter’s theology did not remained flawed to the end. Peter’s flawed theology shaped by his hesitance, his doubting, his failure of faith, his dramatic denial of Christ comes to recognise his own failing. He did not justified his flawed theology and when he hears the cock crow, he weeps bitterly (Mk 14:66-72, Matt 26:69-75). Indeed, God is not interested in the death of a sinner, but that the sinner should come to repentance. After his repentance, Peter’s flawed theology turned to fire and Pentecost theology (Acts 2). Flawed theology divide and decline church, flawed theology promotes a dangerous, infantile state of faith and of preachers and preaching, flawed theology turns movement to monuments.[2] Fire theology convicts and converts souls, fire theology heals the sick and sets the captives free (Acts 3:7, 9:34). Peter’s transformation serves as a model for the larger picture. Peter has been transformed from an uncertain, faltering disciple into the revered apostle and martyr. Beloved, you can come to Jesus as you are, but you cannot remain as you came. Old things must pass away, flawed theology must give way for fire theology.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is the suffering Messiah, Saviour, Christ who saw an enemy stronger than Roman overlords and they must be conquered by suffering and death (vv 31-33). To follow this Jesus, the suffering Messiah, Jesus is calling us to Himself just as He called the people 2000 years ago and said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (vv. 34-37). To deny self means to put aside our own selfish desires in order to follow Christ and serve His purposes, whatever the cost. The cross of Christ is a symbol of suffering (1Pet 2:21; 4:13), death (Acts 10:39), shame (Heb 12:2), ridicule, and rejection (Mt27:39; 1 Pet 2:4). A follower of Christ who takes up his or her cross is making a deliberate choice to deny his or her own selfish interest and way of life (Lk 14:26-27), and to boldly identify with Jesus Christ. To take up the cross is a graphic picture of one who is dead to his or her own will, ready to accept whatever costs are involved in a life of complete Christian commitment. To be a follower of Christ is a kind of identification with Christ that requires a commitment in some areas of struggle and suffering for the sake of Christ. Jesus sees the world system and society in which we live as an “adulterous and sinful generation” where most of humankind are unfaithful to God’s purposes for their lives and are outright rebellious against Him. John Wesley summons us to “Embrace the will of God, however painful, daily, hourly, continually. Thus only can he follow me in holiness to glory.”

To overcome Peter’s flawed theology today, Jesus provides the foundation of authentic, missional and Christian theology. He said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In the early days of the church, Christianity was sometimes referred to as “the Way, the only way out of a life of spiritual darkness, lostness, guilt, and slavery to sin (Acts 9:2, 19:9, 1 Pet 2:9).  Jesus provides the only way to find true theology, our highest purpose and fulfilment in life and to receive eternal life. Jesus is the whole Truth, total, definite, unchanging, and universal, true to all people in all situations for all time. Beloved, the life of this present age is temporal, hence Jesus asks “What good is it someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” There is an enemy of your soul that is worse than Rome or pandemic, hence we need a Messiah who dies and return to life. Jesus, the Messiah conquers death itself and He is coming back very soon, therefore don’t be ashamed of Him, repent and receive Him into your live today for eternity of glory. Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

[1] Ray C. Stedman, Expository Studies in Mark 1–8: The Servant Who Rules (Waco, TX: Word, 1976), p. 221.

[2] Okegbile, Deji, Revival of Preaching: ‘Juvenility to Maturity of Faith and Preachers (London: SADL, 2018), pp. 3-16