Jesus will not be divided. People have tried. Even those closest to him.
In Mark 8:27-33, Peter tried to divide Jesus. After Peter proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ—the Messiah, the King—Jesus prophesied of his own death that would make him the Savior.
Peter’s immediate response is to divide Jesus by trying to prevent Jesus from going to the cross. You see, Peter liked a King Jesus, one with great miracles, great teaching, and great power; he didn’t like a Savior Jesus, one who would be rejected and die.
Jesus called him Satan for this division because Jesus will not be divided. Peter, by trying to have a half-Jesus, was acting as a tool of Satan.
Interestingly, in the very next verses, Jesus now calls the crowd to him. He is no longer speaking only to his disciples, the already committed. He is now speaking to everyone.
To this crowd, he warns them against accepting him as Savior but not as Lord. These are people who want the Savior Jesus but do not want the King Jesus. They want to live as their own master, while pretending to trust in someone else as Jesus. They want Jesus on the cross, but they do not want to pick up their own cross.
To these, Jesus says, “If you are going to follow me, then you are going to have to follow me. To fail to deny yourself and take up the cross is to lose your existence—your life, your soul, the very thing you are trying to save.” And that life is lost at the return of Christ when Jesus is ashamed of you.
I think it very difficult to make the case that Jesus is saying merely that he will be embarrassed by one of his children at his second coming. I think he is saying what he says in Matthew 7 and other places: “Depart from me. I never knew you.” Or Matthew 10:33 where Jesus says, “I will deny him before my Father in heaven.”
You can pretend that Jesus is calling on those already committed to take some extra step of commitment to discipleship. But I think it hard to reconcile that with the fact that Jesus is speaking to the crowd, not the core. And I think it hard to reconcile that with the fact that Jesus ties eternity to it. And I think it hard to reconcile with the fact that the Bible, the New Testament which is our final rule of faith and practice, has no apparent use for a distinction between salvation and discipleship, between the saved and the disciples. And if Jesus had no room for that, either in his own ministry or in his early church, then we must question why there are some who pretend to know more than Jesus did.
You see, Jesus will not be divided. He will not be a King without being a Savior. And he will not be a Savior without being a King.
Yes, it’s a hard saying.
But it’s Jesus’ saying.
And we have no right to say anything else.