Summary: Our minds want a god we can control, but that’s not following Jesus

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (NRSVA)

A god ought to be big enough to scare you! But many people hold in their mind’s eye the picture of a god they can handle. We want a small god who isn’t scary, but who keeps us healthy and wealthy; and it helps if this god is small enough to keep in a box.

Peter wanted that kind of god; he wanted a god he could understand – a god that fit his plans. Jesus wasn’t like that at all, and it troubled the big fisherman!

Let’s Set the Context of Our Text


For months Jesus had been travelling the countryside feeding multitudes, walking on water, healing the sick, raising the dead and even commanding the weather to change. The miracles and the opposition Jesus got from the religious leaders were all predicted by the prophets as the kinds of wonders people would see done by the promised Messiah. Somehow this was a little too subtle for the disciples; they didn’t get it (him).


The impact of all these signs Jesus did made for a growing fascination (on the part of the crowd following) that would make American Idol proud. It finally pushed the truth out in the open. Backing up in the text we see that the disciples were dense, but not totally unteachable. When Jesus asked them the questions (8:27-30) about what people thought of his ministry – and who they (the disciples) thought Jesus was – Peter finally connected the dots. “You are the Christ – the promised one, the son of the Living God.

From that point our text tells us that Jesus began to teach the disciples and all the other followers openly and plainly the truth of the Gospel – that He had come to die on a cross for our sins. There were no more guessing games; the cat was out of the bag.

As much as Peter understood Christ’s divinity, he was still as dumb as a post when it came to keeping his ears open and his mouth disengaged. In one brief paragraph Peter displays monumental faith in declaring Jesus as “the Christ” and the epitome of unbelief as one who would rebuke God. Brilliant and bumbler was the fisherman apostle-to-be. Peter was fine with the Messiah title; the cross was just a little too “out of the box” – just a little too radical and too big for Peter’s imagination! His god had to be smaller – able to fit in a box, thank you.

Jesus didn’t let Peter dangle – he called him “Satan” or adversary (8:33). He told him his mind wasn’t the least bit spiritual in this matter.

Now, with that as context, what did Jesus do with the moment? He gave an invitation!


34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

This verse contains three conditions of becoming a disciple or follower of Jesus.

1. Follow Voluntarily

Salvation is offered, and it is offered freely; it is not automatic for every human being. If you “want” to be his follower…that is a condition – it is your decision; Jesus will not load you up on the next Gospel bus. Each account of Jesus calling someone to follow indicated an offer, never a command.

A voluntary following presupposes that the opposite is also a possibility – that some choose to not follow. Those who choose so are called “the lost”. Not everyone to whom Jesus offered his hand of friendship accepted. The rich young ruler went away from Jesus and the supposition is that he was lost. Judas began to follow, but was lost. Following or not following is a personal decision. This is the “entry-level” of Christianity. For those who choose voluntarily to follow, there is a second condition:

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