Mark 8:27-30 – Peter’s Misunderstanding Confession


Mark 8:27-30


Peter makes a true confession, but Jesus must correct his misunderstanding of the nature of messiahship.


Geographical details play an important role in Mark’s Gospel and the setting of Peter’s confession presents a good example of this. Before the confession, Mark makes sure that his audience knows that Jesus and his disciples have come to Caesarea Philippi. Caesarea Philippi was a city founded by Philip, son of Herod the Great and brother of the Herod who executed John the Baptist. The first half of the name, Caesarea, indicates that he founded the city in honor of Caesar Augustus, the first emperor of Rome (mentioned in Luke 2).

The proximity of Jesus and his disciples to a seat of Roman power adds tension to the question that Jesus addresses to his disciples: “Who do people say I am?” In the first place, their answers all connect Jesus to the prophetic tradition, a tradition that often found itself in direct conflict with the ruling powers, whether kings or priests. By connecting Jesus to the prophets, the people show that they see his ministry as a critique of their rulers. Peter’s confession adds another layer to this; he calls Jesus the Christ which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “Messiah.” For many, though not all, Jews, this was a word with royal and political meaning. The Messiah was seen as the heir of King David, the king who united Israel and freed them from domination by a foreign power. In the shadow of Caesarea Philippi, Peter’s confession held hopes of revolt against Roman imperial rule.

Jesus responds immediately by turning Peter’s confession on its head; he is also aware of the link between his role as Christ and the Romans, but instead of triumph, it will end in execution. To Peter’s great distress, Jesus identifies hopes of revolt with the mission of Satan.