Suffer Many Things
Peter has made the glorious confession that Jesus is the Christ (Mark 8:29). However, now comes the teaching about what the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, had come to do. Many people believed he would be a military leader who would come and establish the kingdom of Israel as David had done. They would be set free from the oppression of the Roman Empire, they would have their own land again, and their own King. They saw the promises of God purely in a physical sense, a physical kingdom, with a bodily king, who sat upon an actual throne, who fight real enemies, and the nation would have physical boundaries. Peter, who confessed Jesus as the Christ, now rebukes Jesus because he does not truly understand what Jesus came to do.
I. Suffering Servant (31-33)
Jesus, for the first time, tells his disciples what is going to happen to him. “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). He explains the Son of Man will suffer, be rejected, killed, and rise again. These four things are evident in our ears because we have heard about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. However, to Peter and the disciples, it was a shock to the system. The Messiah was coming to have victory, to rule and reign. However, Jesus said he would suffer, be rejected, and be killed. Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man. It is the most common title Jesus calls himself. The Son of Man is a reference found in the book of Daniel. In Daniel 7:13-14, it explains what the Son of Man will do,
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven, there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
Daniel explains the Son of Man will be given dominion, glory, and a kingdom, and all people shall serve him. Jesus doesn’t sound like a victorious king but the suffering servant. Peter took him aside and began rebuking him. Jesus explained clearly what he had come to do. However, Peter did not understand it. Jesus rebukes Peter and explains that he is thinking like a man. Peter doesn’t understand everything. Although he made the true confession that Jesus is the Christ, he did not completely understand what the Christ had come to do. We have heard of Christ’s humiliation and suffering frequently. However, to Peter, this is the first time, which utterly smashed his understanding of what the Messiah was to do.
II. Servants who suffer (34-38)
Christ then teaches a valuable lesson of discipleship. James Edwards, a commentator, explains the connection between these two accounts, “A wrong view of Messiahship leads to a wrong view of discipleship.”
a. Deny Yourself
The first lesson Jesus teaches about discipleship is denying yourself, taking up his cross, and following Jesus. A disciple must disown themselves. We can only fully understand denying ourselves and taking up our cross when we first understand that we follow Jesus. The call to discipleship is a call to follow Jesus (Mark 1:18, 2:14-15). Jesus came to suffer, be rejected, killed, and resurrected. The disciple’s call is the same, not in the same way we are not the savior of the world. But we are called to live in Christlikeness. We should not then be surprised as people reject Christ. They will reject us because we are like Christ. Jesus’ disciples are called to count others more significant than ourselves (Phil 2:3). This is the opposite of what the world has taught us. It is a world of selfies and celebrities. We think of ourselves significantly more than others. To deny oneself is not superficial sacrifice, where we give parts of our lives to look good, but truly give of our whole lives. If you stopped being a Christian today, how would your life change? How would your schedule change? Sadly, many people walk away from the faith or some form of faith because it is merely an add-on rather than a denying faith.
We are also to take up our cross. This is not a metaphor for putting up with people in our workplace or family. Nor is it situations in our lives that cause us pain, such as finances or health. This call is for us to display the self-sacrifice shown to us by Christ. Paul writes in Philippians 2:8, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” To take up one’s cross is not to be harassed on Facebook for sharing a Bible verse. Taking up your cross is persecution. One of my favorite promises in the Bible is found in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” This promise is not one you will find on coffee cups, but the promise is that you seek to live a godly life in Christ Jesus. You will be persecuted like Jesus. We want to strive to live like him more and more each day, saying to our old self and putting on the new self. I read many biographies where I hear of the suffering that men and women went through for the sake of the gospel, and I pray that I would be willing to take up my cross.
b. Lose your life
The Heidelberg Catechism begins with the glorious statement of our comfort in life and death. “That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins” (HC 1). This answer is based on Paul’s words in Romans 14:7-8, “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” Our comfort is not found in life or death but only in Christ. Jesus teaches his disciples this truth that if you seek to keep your life, you will end up losing your life. However, if you are Christ’s, then he will keep it for you, and it will not be lost. The topsy turvy view of discipleship goes opposite to what the world teaches us. The world teaches everybody to save your life is to find it. Even in many sayings of today, we see a move from the future to the present. To live now, laugh now, and love now. Do what makes you happy. They think not of tomorrow or the consequences of tomorrow. But we do need to be honest with ourselves. Often this is our thinking. We live in the world, but, often we do not live differently from the world. We live for today. We live for pleasure and happiness. We live for our sake, not Christ’s or the gospel. Peter writes in his first epistle that because Christ has suffered in the flesh, “arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1–2).
c. Forfeit your soul
We do not even deny ourselves and lose our whole life, body, and soul. Jesus explains that if you gain the world, you forfeit your soul. Forfeit is used by translators here, but it seems that you have one or the other. People who gain the world exchange the world for their souls. Has this ‘sell your soul’ terminology. However, maybe it would be the better translation, which is how the Greek word is translated in the New Testament outside of the Gospels. Paul uses it in Philippians 3:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered (Same Greek word) the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8.) Jim Carey once said, “I hope everybody could get rich and famous and will have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know it’s not the answer.” The gain of the world does damage to the soul. The world chases things and stuff; joy and happiness; pleasure and satisfaction; acceptance and belonging. Yet, the world cannot truly provide any of these things. This is not only those outside but for us inside our church and our hearts. People spend their whole life finding something in everything other than Christ, and they find cheap knockoffs that break the moment your hands touch them. The Psalmist wrote, “those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? Truly no man can ransom another, or give God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice” (Psalm 49:6–8). Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool in Luke chapter 12, who has so much he needs to build everything bigger. Yet the foolishness is found at the end of the parable when the rich man says, “And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they are?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”” (Luke 12:19–21). The price tag of things is more than the dollars and cents. We are better to suffer a little while here, considering our souls, than to have our souls suffer here and for eternity. As Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:19, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
d. Not Ashamed of Christ
The cost of discipleship continues to grow in two ways. The first is via addition; each lesson of disciples is added to the previous one. We are called to all these, not only one of these at a time. I do think the second aspect that this list grows is weightiness. The next item on the list goes deeper to the heart. The last one speaks of a somber reality and dark eternity. Words can pierce our hearts. Some of the most dreadful and fearful words anyone could hear is, “Depart from me, for I do not know you.” In this lesson of discipleship, Jesus explains that those who are ashamed of Christ and his words, the son of man, will be ashamed of them.
The disciple thinks not just of today but always has eternity on his mind. The common thread to this lesson in discipleship is you will follow Christ or man, whether others or yourself. Maybe everyone needs to ask who I am seeking to please, God, man, or self. Peter was confronted with this question in Acts chapter 5. They were charged not to teach in Jesus’ name, but Peter’s response was quite simple, “We must obey God rather than men.” Paul expressed that he was not ashamed of Jesus and his gospel (Rom 1:16, 6:21; 2 Tim 1:8, 12, 16). The author of Hebrews shows this principle not only that a true disciple is not ashamed of Christ, but Christ is not ashamed of us. “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16). Not only that God would be their God, but they would be his people. Peter explains if you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed (1 Pet 4:14). I do not know of a time when I have equated being insulted with being blessed.
Nothing has changed since Jesus called his disciples. “You follow me,” Jesus said as he called them. However, they did not know where he was going, or maybe more importantly, what road they would be traveling on. We pray to be more Christ-like, but I am not sure we completely understand what that prayer entails. Thomas Watson said, “Was his head crowned with thorns, and do we think to be crowned with roses?” From the beginning, his disciples have been marked with an understanding of eternity. They have denied themselves, lost their lives for the sake of Christ and his gospel, and they have not been ashamed of Christ. Church tradition explains that most of Christ’s disciples died from persecution, besides John, who died of old age (while been imprisoned). Paul was beheaded, Peter crucified, and tradition says upside down. Andrew was crucified preaching to region Asia and Europe. Thomas was pierced with spears taking the gospel to India. Matthew was stabbed to death in Ethiopia. James was stoned and clubbed to death. Matthias burned to death. The story has continued throughout Church history, men and women living out these principles of discipleship. William Secker said,
“Religion is the phoenix which has always flourished in its ashes. While magistrates defend the truth with their sword, martyrs defend it with their blood.”
We might not all be called to martyrdom, but we are called to discipleship which includes denying self, taking up your cross, following Christ, losing our life, and not being ashamed of Christ.