September 18, 2016
The story is told of a man who went to see his doctor for his annual physical. After some tests, the next day, the man returned to the doctor, who had somber look on his face. “Well,” the doctor said, “I have some bad news, and some really bad news.” “What’s the bad news?” the man asked. “I’m sorry to tell you that you have a rare disease, and you only have 24 hours to live.” “Twenty-four hours to live – that’s the bad news? What’s the really bad news?” the man asked. The doctor replied, “I’ve been trying to call since yesterday.”
I have some bad news, and some really bad news for you this morning. The bad news is, Jesus came to earth to bear a cross. And the really bad news is, Jesus came to earth to bring His followers a cross. We continue today in our study of the Gospel of Mark – chapter 8. Which is interesting – the word gospel means good news. So maybe, Jesus bearing a cross isn’t bad news after all. And maybe, us bearing a cross, isn’t bad news, either.
Peter has just declared the truth of all ages: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Finally, someone, a human being, gets it. All the training, all the teaching, all the object lessons (healing, driving out demons, walking on water, calming storms, raising people from the dead) they had all accomplished their primary purpose – the disciples finally understood – Jesus was none other than the Christ, the Son of God, the hope of the world. That sounds like awfully good news to me – so what’s the bad news? Well, now that they understood who He was, they now needed to know what He came to do. They needed to know His mission.
But there was a problem with that. You see, the Jews were sure they knew what the Christ would come to do. He would be a deliverer – not from sin – but from the Herods and Rome. He would be a strong political and military ruler, a king, who would lead the Jews in victorious conquest over their oppressors. That’s what they were looking for – which is why, when Peter made his magnificent declaration, Jesus warned His disciples – “don’t tell anyone I’m the Christ.” Why? They have a wrong view – if they know I’m the Christ – they’ll take me by force to be their political king.
But that’s not why I came. I came to deliver them, alright. But, I came to deliver them from their real enemies – from sin and death. I came to deliver them from oppression, alright, but from the oppression of the evil one. And I came to be their king, alright, but my kingdom is not of this world – my kingdom is within – I came to rule in their hearts. They are confused about the kind of kingdom I came to bring, and the people to whom I came to bring it. Don’t tell anyone, I’m the Christ. It’ll just cause problems, and may derail the mission. This was the reason for the Messianic secret – it’ll mess things up. But now, we’ll find, when the disciples discover His identity, they try to derail the mission.
Since you know who I am, disciples, let me tell you what I, the Christ, came to do. We read about it in Mark 8. Here’s the bad news – or is it really bad? Let’s read verses 31-33. Bad news. I came to die. And then, here’s the really bad news: Not only did I come to bear a cross – I came to give my followers a cross – in other words, if you want to follow Jesus, you better look good on wood. Read it with me, verses 34-38. Let me give you the outline of the entire passage:
- Jesus Came to Bear His Cross (31-33)
- Then, we’ll see Jesus Came to Bring His Disciples a Cross (34-38) But we won’t get to that till next week.
Here’s the question for you – is that good news – all of it? Well, we understand that Jesus’ cross work is good news, but why is it we see our cross as bad news? In fact, why do we have those running around suggesting there is no cross for followers of Jesus – just health and wealth? Well, this week, we’ll begin with Jesus’ Cross. Next week, we’ll look at ours. In these verses today, we’ll see:
- The Plan of God in verse 31
- The Protest of Peter in verse 32
- The Response of Jesus in verse 33
We begin with this plan of God. This, disciples, is the mission. This is what the Christ came to do. “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things…” I’ve been saying for weeks, this chapter marks the high point and the turning point of the book. From this time on, Jesus will no longer focus on the crowds; He will focus on His disciples, preparing them for His coming departure. A departure which they never really got – at least until after the resurrection. Jesus will begin to make His way, resolutely, toward Jerusalem, and what awaited Him there.
This is the first of three times Jesus spoke clearly of what awaited Him – suffering, death, and resurrection. Mark says He told them plainly – no parables, He spelled it out for them. He does so three times – they are called His passion predictions:
- The first we just read in Mark 8.
- The second is in Mark 9:30-32, 30 From there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it. 31 For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” 32 But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.
- The third time was in Mark 10:32-34 – 32 They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, …And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, 33 saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. 34 “They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.”
He told them over and over them about His coming passion, which included the resurrection. But they never seemed to get it. In fact, after the last supper, Jesus said, it’s time that I go. And Thomas said, “So, where ya goin’?”
When He was arrested, they all fled, deserted, and denied Him. Three days later, when He rose from the dead, the women who saw Him in the garden, outside the tomb, came back to report to the disciples, and the disciples said, “you’re out of your mind.” Luke 24 says, “But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.” What didn’t they get? Jesus gave them a news report concerning His death – complete with time, place, instrument of death, perpetrators (He names the murderers), and time of resurrection – He gave it to them before it ever happened, and they still didn’t get it.
But before we’re too hard on them, let’s remember – most people don’t believe it today either. In fact, I Corinthians 1 speaks of the cross as foolishness to those who don’t believe. Be thankful God has revealed the truth to you – you never would have believed it either.
By the way, how did Jesus know all those details anyway? Seriously, this does read a bit like a news report. Did He really say all these very specific, detailed things? Many pages have been written about this passage and its authenticity. Bultmann, for example, flatly denies it – says, no way Jesus would have known all that ahead of time. Others try to find if there was something written in Jewish literature, the Old Testament, about a suffering Messiah that would have alerted Jesus to this detail – you know, maybe Jesus read it somewhere. Still others say while Jesus predicted His death, but Mark added these details after Jesus was resurrected.
I’ve got an explanation for you: try this one on for size: He was the Christ, the Son of the living God. And as God in the flesh – He knew who He was, why He was there, what He would do, and how it would all unfold, down to the smallest detail. It proves Jesus was who He claimed to be, and that He accomplished what He came to do.
“And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer” – stop there. While Peter had just declared Him the Christ, Jesus’ favorite title was Son of Man. It’s a more veiled reference from Daniel 7. It also speaks of His ability to suffer – as humanity, Son of Man. Of the fourteen time Jesus uses the term in Mark’s gospel, it’s mostly in the context of suffering.
Notice, He must suffer – what does that mean? It’s that bad news thing, Scott. He didn’t want to go, but He had to – it was heroic determination. Didn’t want to go – had to go. Not exactly. He must go, because it was the divine decree of the Triune God that Jesus come to earth, that He go to Jerusalem, that He suffer and die for the sins of humanity, and that He rise again the third day. What we read here is Jesus’ human response to a divine imperative. He must go to fulfill divine decree. God had no backup plan – this “must” came thundering out of eternity – it was the unalterable plan of God set in motion from the foundation of the world.
The must there is followed by four things He must do. First, He must suffer many things. It’s important we understand the suffering, the cross, was all according to divine decree. Meaning, it was all according to God’s plan. Even the suffering? It was God’s decree, it was God’s plan that Jesus suffer, and die? Absolutely. Consider these verses:
- Acts 2:22-24 – “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know – this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”
- Acts 4:27-28 – “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.”
- Isaiah 53:4-6, 10-11 – “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him… 10 But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.”
The point is, He must go to Jerusalem and suffer, because it was the predetermined plan of God that He go. It was this way, and this way only, there would be redemption for sin. He must go, per divine decree, and suffer many things. We have seen rising opposition to Jesus. There was even the indication as early as Mark 3, both religious and political leaders were plotting to kill Him. What is new here is that His death would not be defeat, but victory. It would be the completion of His mission. It’s why He came.
He would suffer many things. You have to understand, there was more to His passion than just the pain of crucifixion, as painful as that was. It is true, His crucifixion included nudity, impaled hands and feet, a spear thrust in His side, the rough, unfinished wood scraping against the raw, fresh wounds in His back, gasping for air with every breath. We’ll talk about all that when we get to the crucifixion at the end of the book. But not only was there the suffering of the cross. There was the betrayal by Judas, one of His own, there was the arrest by the religious leaders, the desertion of the disciples, the false accusations made against Him, the illegal trial, the purple robe, the beating, the scourging, the slaps in his face, the crown of thorns, the mocking, the weight of the sin of the world on His shoulders – and then, the separation He felt from His Father that would cause Him to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” He would suffer many things – but knowing all that, He must go and suffer.
Second, not only must He suffer, but He would be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes, referring to the Sanhedrin – the Jewish ruling body of the day. The elders were the lay leaders. The chief priests were the priestly aristocracy, including the family of the High Priest – who were all Sadducees at this time. The scribes were considered the experts in interpreting the Law of Moses. This was the religious ruling group – and they would reject Jesus.
I want you to stop and think about that. The suffering and death of the Son of Man would not come, as we would expect, at the hand of godless, wicked, pagan people. It comes at the hands of the religious. It is not humanity at its worst that will crucify the Son of God, but humanity at its best. His death will not be the result of accident or the momentary lapse of human character, but rather the result of careful deliberations from respected religious leaders who will justify their actions under that highest standards of morality and law, seeing themselves doing a service to God. Jesus will not be lynched by an enraged mob or beaten to death in a criminal act, but arrested with official warrants, tried and executed by political and religious leadership. What’s my point? Even the best of humanity would crucify the Son of God.
He must, thirdly, be killed. Jesus spoke of it plainly – He would die. This would have thrown the disciples for a loop. Okay, going to Jerusalem and suffering, we can handle – I guess there’s got to be a little pain in the battle before you take your rightful place on the throne. But die? That doesn’t fit, Jesus – the Messiah won’t die, will He? But we understand, He must die. He was the perfect, spotless, sacrificial Lamb of God. There was no other way by which the sins of the world could be atoned. The author of Hebrews later would write, “Without shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”
Jesus Himself said in Mark 10, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.”
Paul, in his great treatise on salvation, said in Romans 5:8-9, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
Jesus must die to save us from God’s righteous wrath. It was the way; the only way of salvation. It’s why He came. But, the good news is, He didn’t stay dead. You see, the fourth thing He must do is rise from the dead after three days. Only God would be bold enough to predict His own resurrection – only God would know just how long He would stay dead. He must go, He must suffer, He must be killed, but, He must be raised on the third day. The resurrection is absolutely essential to the gospel. If you present the gospel and don’t include the resurrection, you haven’t presented the gospel. If Jesus did not rise, His prediction here would have been a lie. If Jesus did not rise, we are still in our sins. If Jesus did not rise, we have no hope for a future resurrection.
But He did rise – and not only did He rise – He said He would. They should have known, but they didn’t. They were stuck on the suffering and dying thing. And they saw that as bad news, which brings us to our second point, the protest of Peter. Peter, especially, saw it as bad news. Now, remember, Peter has just made that profound declaration a few verses ago, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” To which, Jesus responded in Matthew, you are Peter, the rock. And flesh and blood did not reveal that truth to you – my Father in heaven did. Peter’s feeling pretty confident by now – why, I’m a spokesman for God Himself.
Jesus says, I’m going to suffer and die in Jerusalem, and we read Peter takes Him aside and rebukes Him. Can’t you see that? Peter puts his arm around Jesus, takes Him aside and says, “Now Lord, that’s not right – that’s not going to happen while I’m around.” Actually, it’s a little stronger than that – the word for rebuke is a strong one – it’s typically used of rebuking demons. Peter thought he knew better than Jesus what was required of the Messiah. In Matthew, Peter said, “God forbid it” – literally, may that not happen to you, Lord! It’s a double negative for emphasis – this shall not never happen to you – the implication is, Peter will take care of this and prevent Jesus from going to the cross. Peter was trying to derail the mission.
To which Jesus responded with equally strong words, using the same word, Mark says Jesus rebuked Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Whoa. You might expect Jesus to say, that’s not exactly right, Peter. You might expect Him to say, Peter, you’re way off base. You might expect Him to say everything He says – except that name-calling thing. What’s that all about?
First, let’s make something clear. Remember, I said the disciples never really did figure out this suffering thing until after the resurrection. It wasn’t like Peter was standing there intentionally trying to stand in the way of God’s redemptive plan of the ages. Remember, he had the same view of the Messiah everyone else did – political, military leader – and there was no place in their understanding for a suffering servant. So when Jesus said, I must go and be killed, Peter said, over my dead body. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter hadn’t quite figured it out – remember? When they came to arrest Jesus, He drew a sword and cut off Malchus’ ear. It was out of an intense love and loyalty to Jesus that he said what he said.
Be that as it may – it was still wrong-headed, in fact, it was, Jesus said, satanically inspired. Get behind me, Satan! Why would He say that? Whether by oppression or influence, Peter was being used by Satan to try to derail the redemptive plan of the ages. Peter was saying the same thing that Satan said at the temptation back in Matthew 4. Remember that? Jesus, I’ll give you the kingdoms of the world if you just fall down and worship me. And Jesus, said, “Go away, Satan.” Satan was offering Jesus the glory of kingship without the suffering of the cross – bypass the cross – worship me, and it’s all yours. Peter was saying, you’re the Messiah – you have a right to kingship without the cross. Get behind me, Satan! You see, it was the same spirit that inspired Satan that now inspired Peter. And Jesus calls it for what it was.
The fact is, if we stand against God’s plans, wittingly or unwittingly, we are siding with Satan and his plans to derail the sovereign control and plan of God.
Which brings us to our conclusion. Let me ask you a question: was this bad news? Of course, on this side of the cross, we understand it is really not bad news at all. The death, burial and resurrection of Christ – we call that the gospel – the good news. Jesus came to die – to bear our sins in His body on the cross. Which is why we display the cross, sing of the cross, wear the cross, glory in the cross. Without the cross, there would be no good news – there would only be bad news – eternal damnation for us. The cross and all it represents has become the way of salvation – the way of eternal life for us – good news. And I want you to remember – He must go – and He went. Listen to these words:
14 “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,
15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
16 “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.
18 “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. [And He did, for you and for me. He must go, and He did for us.]
Two final thoughts we learn from this passage:
First, God’s plan of salvation does not correspond to man’s way. If we were doing the planning, we would have come up with something else. That’s what Peter was doing – no way, Lord, you’ll not die. To which Jesus responded, you’re thinking man’s thoughts, not God’s thoughts. We would have come up with another way, but the fact of the matter is, there is no other way. To reject the cross of Christ is to reject the only way to God. We cannot come to Christ on our own terms. We must come God’s way, and His way is the way of the cross.
The second and final thought we learn from this passage is this: there is pain in God’s saving process. To provide eternal salvation, redemption, and purification from sin for all of humanity cost Jesus His life. And next week, we’ll see the path Jesus calls His disciples to follow – and it is the path of the cross. The way of Christ is they way of suffering – that’s the bad news – or is it? And to follow Christ is the really bad news, or is it?