How have your perceptions of Jesus changed throughout your spiritual journey? In this passage, Jesus asks about their perceptions of Him, then challenges their ideas about "the Christ".
Let's read verses 27-30.
Why does Jesus ask for their thoughts about His identity, instead of just telling them who He is? (Jesus often used questions in His teaching to stir up faith in his students. He seemed less interested in pounding in knowledge as He was in stimulating thought and belief.)
Instead of only asking His disciples what they thought, why does Jesus first ask what others are saying? (To draw out a contrast.)
Do people answer this question much differently today? (A good percentage of unbelievers believe that Jesus was a great teacher or prophet, much the same as the reference here to Elijah, John, and other prophets.)
What does it mean that Jesus is "the Christ"? ("Christ" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew "Messiah", which means "Annointed One". This term was used in Old Testament times of kings, priests and prophets which were chosen and empowered by God for a particular task. The Jews came to expect an ultimate Messiah who would deliver them and establish his righteous kingdom.)
How does Jesus respond to Peter's confession and why? (In warning them "not to tell anyone about Him", Jesus acknowledged the truth of Peter's statement, but made it clear that it was not time for their public proclamation of His identity. The reason could be to prevent the crowds from acting on their nationalistic conception of the Messiah by forcing a political coronation of Him. Also, Jesus may have wanted to improve on His disciples' defective view of His Messiahship before allowing them to share it with others. A teacher has got to know his subject, and the disciples grasped Christ's identity more fully only after His Passion and Pentecost. Only then did Jesus send them as his "witnesses…to the ends of the earth.")
Let's read verses 31-38.
How must Christ's prediction of His suffering and death have sounded to His disciples? (They were shocked and appalled that such an infamous end would interrupt this ministry of miracles which drew such big crowds. And they expected upward, not downward mobility in His future. "The Christ" was supposed to be a symbol of strength, not weakness!)
How could Peter rebuke the one he had just called "the Christ"? (He obviously had a truncated idea of "the Christ". Although it's not advisable, it is conceivable to argue with a provincial king, but not with the King of the Universe! And Peter's idea of "the Christ" was not a suffering servant, but a conquering king. He could also be expressing natural concern for his friend who had taken center stage in his life.)
Why was Jesus so harsh with Peter, calling him "Satan" in front of the other disciples? (Jesus was so focused on the cross that He wouldn't tolerate any suggestion to veer from His mission. Peter's suggested diversion was similar to Satan's, who had tempted Jesus to opt for immediate worldly power.)
How do verses 34-38 expound on what Jesus has just said about His suffering[v. 31]? (He says in effect: "Not only must I suffer, but you must as well if you choose to follow me!" This became especially true of Peter, who was said to have been crucified.)
What does it mean to deny self and carry the cross? (Jesus isn't calling us to deny ourselves certain luxuries or bad habits, but to deny our perceived right to direct our own lives. We are to renounce ownership of ourselves, and submit unswervingly to God's will. This often brings opposition, as it did to Jesus. Whatever the cost, Jesus calls us to say "no" to self and "yes" to God.)
What paradox does Jesus give us in verse 35? ("For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it." In other words, whoever retains control of his own life actually forfeits the authentic life that only Jesus gives. On the other hand, whoever allows his own will to be crucified receives spiritual and eternal life – through death!)
Let's reread verses 36-37. What does Jesus teach here about the value of one's soul? (One's soul is worth more than the "whole world". Jesus points out the stupidity of obtaining what this world offers by trading away the most valuable possession we could ever have.)
What cause and effect does Jesus promise in verse 38? (If you're ashamed of Me now, I'll be ashamed of you later.)
Someone summarize verses 34-38 for us in contemporary verbiage.
Let's ask Jesus now for the strength to follow Him wherever He may lead us, whatever the cost.