Formations 06.09.2024: You Keep Using That Word…

Mark 8:27-38

In The Princess Bride, the Sicilian boss Vizzini repeatedy describes the unfolding action as “inconceivable.” After Vizzini attempts to cut a rope the Dread Pirate Roberts is climbing, he exclaims that it was inconceivable that the pirate didn’t fall.

At this point, the swordsman Inigo Montoya comments, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

When I read Peter’s response to Jesus’s question “Who do you say that I am?” I can’t help but think about Inigo Montoya.

Halfway through the Gospel of Mark, Jesus takes his disciples to Caesarea Philippi, where he questions them about his identity. Who do people say that he is? Who do they say that he is? Peter is the first to confess, “You are the Messiah” (8:29). But when Jesus goes on to talk about his impending arrest, mistreatment, and death, Peter is the first to take Jesus aside and rebuke him.

Peter knows what the Messiah is supposed to be. No doubt he has heard all the traditional hopes and dreams of his people about a coming King of the line of David, a King who will finally establish God’s kingdom on earth with justice and peace. But Peter balks at the idea of Jesus being arrested and killed in Jerusalem. He clearly doesn’t understand what Jesus means by accepting this title.

“You keep using that word, Peter. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

To be fair, Jesus is turning the traditional understanding of Messiah on its head. No one would have expected this interpretation of the kingdom, and the King, that God promised. Even so, Peter’s passing moment of failure gives Jesus an opportunity to explain what following him is all about. It involves a cross and self-denial, not power and acclaim.

You don’t follow a Messiah by accident. You need to know what you’re getting into.


• Why is Jesus interested in what others are saying about him?
• When Peter gives the definitive answer, why does Jesus order his disciples not to tell others?
• What is the relationship between confessing Jesus as Messiah and following his path of self-denial and sacrifice?
• How does this connection challenge superficial understandings of discipleship?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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