Came to Die
The third time the charm. This is the third and final time that Jesus tells his disciples plainly what the Son of Man came to do (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34). We have made a few comments about this as we have gone through this study, but it is worth pausing in this passage to reflect more on this amazing passage. Out of the three times in Mark, Jesus tells the disciples what the Son of Man came to do. This is the most detailed (See table below). We consider Christ coming to earth as a babe during this time of year and sing sweet songs. However, we hardly reflect on why Christ came as a baby. He did not come to give us a chance to get together and have a delightful dinner or give presents. Christ came in the low condition of a man. We often look at how Christ came but rarely considered why Christ came. This passage helps us understand Christ on his journey to the cross.
|the Son of Man
|The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.
|the Son of Man will be betrayed
|must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests,
|to the chief priests
|And scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles,
who will mock him
and spit on him, flog him
|and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
|They will kill him, and after three days he will rise again.
|and kill him. Three days later
he will rise again.
There is no secret to the people reading the gospel, even if it is for the first time to know what will happen to Jesus. Right from chapter three, the Pharisees and Herodians sought to destroy him (Mark 3:6). Jesus tells his disciples three times precisely what will happen to him. He has set his face towards Jerusalem and now heads towards the city. The disciples clearly do not understand what Jesus came to do, but they do afterward, for they record these three instances to tell those reading what will happen to Jesus. After the first time, Peter tried to rebuke Jesus (Mark 8:32). After the second time, Mark records that they did not understand the saying and were afraid to ask (Mark 9:32). Following the second and third times, the disciples discuss who will be the greatest and have the best seats (Mark 9:33-37, 10:35-45). They failed to understand why the Son of Man came.
I. Jesus went knowingly to the cross
Jesus tells his disciples what is going to happen to him. He tells them because he knows what will happen to him. Jesus explains in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Christ came on a mission, sent by the Father to redeem those under the law. Each of the gospels is unique depending on the author and the audience. However, one aspect of the Gospels that does not change much is their emphasis on the last few weeks of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Roughly 30% of the Gospel accounts are dedicated to the previous couple of weeks of his life. Jesus knew what would happen to him. John 18:4 explains, “Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him.” Jesus prophesied about himself, telling his disciples in clear detail what was going to happen around Passover. He explained the detail of his death from the betrayal that they would mock him, spit on him and flog him. Jesus would have read Isaiah 53:7, knowing that when Isaiah wrote “he was oppressed, and he was afflicted,” Isaiah was writing about Jesus. Jesus would know Psalm 2, Zechariah 11, Psalm 34, Deuteronomy 21, Psalm 69, Exodus 12, or Numbers 12. Jesus could read the Scriptures and understand what was coming. However, there is a detail that is not mentioned in the Old Testament. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40). Jesus knew what was coming in the next few months through the Scripture that revealed God’s will and his relationship to the Father through the Holy Spirit.
II. Jesus went willingly to the cross
Secondly, not only did Jesus know what was awaiting him, he willingly went. We are told that Jesus was going to Jerusalem. Luke explains that “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). Jonah was called to go to Nineveh, but he ran to Tarshish because of his knowledge. We are told in Jonah 4:2, “That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” Jonah knew what God was like, and therefore he ran the other way. Jonah ran because he thought the people of Nineveh did not deserve God’s grace and mercy. Jonah does not risk anything; he does not know how the people of Nineveh would act, but he assumes that they would repent, which was his problem. However, Jesus knew what was awaiting him as he set his face towards Jerusalem, and he still went. His humiliation of coming to earth and putting on flesh meant he would suffer many things, even death on a cross.
Would we not walk the other way? We would not go to Jerusalem if we knew what was about to perspire? We would be like Jonah heading towards Tarshish. Yet, Jesus still went. Jesus went willingly to the cross. It was not always easy. In the Garden of Gethsemane, as the hour drew near, he explains to his disciples that his soul was very sorrowful, even to the point of death (Mark 14:34). Jesus willingly walks the road to Jerusalem, bearing a weight of sorrow upon his soul. Knowing the pain, he would have to suffer physically and that it is God’s will to crush him (Is 53:10). We often just think of Christ’s pain on the day of his death, yet his pain would have begun long before. How amazing it is not that Christ walked the road to Golgotha for us, but he was in Jerusalem in the first place, knowing what he would have to go through. Before he walked the hill of Golgotha, he climbed the mountain of Jerusalem.
III. Jesus went victoriously to the cross
However, there is hope in the passage. It is found that three days after Jesus’ death, he will rise. Peter, James, and John had more information than the other disciples. As they walked down the mount of transfiguration, Jesus told them not to tell anyone until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. However, they did not know what the rising from the dead meant (Mark 9:9-10). Jesus willingly and knowingly goes to the cross, but he does so knowing that he can take up his life because he is the one who lays it down (Joh. 10:17-18). The Pharisees remembered that Jesus said after three days he would rise again, that is why they placed guards to protect his grave (Matt 27:62-64). Jesus knew his Bible. He knew that he was the one who would have a bruised heel, but he also knew that he would crush the head of the serpent. Jesus knew that he would be placed in a grave. The flesh he put on would be wrapped in swaddling clothes at his birth and then linen cloths covering his corpse (John 19:40). However, he knew that the temporal linen cloths would not be worn for very long. He knew that he would defeat death, that death would lose its sting. He knew that he would go to be with his Father once more. Christ came humbly and came to the will of the Father, which was to put him to death. That Jesus came to earth to die.
IV. Jesus went to the cross for his people
Christ came to this world to die. That is a true statement but not the whole statement. Christ went knowingly, willingly, and victoriously to the cross. He did so because of us, you and me. Paul explains to Timothy, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim 1:15). Christ came to save sinners by dying on the cross. Strange that we were the ones who were dead, in our trespasses; yet Christ died that we can live. Christ lived the life we should have lived. He died the death that we should have died so that we can live the life we do not deserve. Christ died while we were still sinners, which shows God’s love for us (Rom 5:8, John 3:16). How amazing it is that as Jesus tells his disciples of what is going to happen to the Son of Man, he knows what this means. Yet, those who receive the benefits of justification, adoption, and sanctification have no idea what he is talking about.
Paul explains in the first letter to the Corinthians, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died…” He states a fact, which many people can affirm that Christ died. However, it is far greater to the believer, Paul continues, “…for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3). It is far greater than historical fact but the glorious doctrine that should make the sinner’s heart rejoice. J. Gresham Machen put it this way, “Christ died–that is history; Christ died for our sins–that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity.”
In the hymn “Man of Sorrows,” the first lines say,
“Man of sorrows what a name
for the Son of God, who came
ruined sinners to reclaim:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!”
Ruined sinners to reclaim. Christ came to this earth to die for sinners. To redeem those who are dead in their sins. Christ died to reclaim, redeem, release, rescue sinners, which we all are. We rejoice, as sinners, as we think of Christ going to the cross, that he did so knowingly, willingly, and victoriously for his people.