Introduction Preliminary Concern: Why bother with Bible study?

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Mark 8:31-38

Jesus Predicts His Death
31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. 32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.

33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. "Get away from me, Satan!" he said. "You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God's."

34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

SEE (head)

After Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus proceeds to inform his disciples exactly what that means. Far from the picture of military might and victory they have in mind, in the very near future Jesus will suffer and be put to death. This is simply too much for Peter to take in, and so he rebukes Jesus. Jesus then explains that a similar fate awaits those who follow him.

Son of Man (Mark 8:31)

Notice Jesus' use of "Son of Man," a title he would employ with increasing frequency in the days leading up to his crucifixion (Mark 2:10, 28; 8:31, 38; 9:9, 12, 31; 10:33, 45; 13:26; 14:21, 41, 62). "The title 'Son of Man' emphasized Jesus as the vindicated, authoritative, and powerful agent of God."690 As one source notes: "This title especially suited Jesus' total mission. It was free of political connotations, thus preventing false expectations. Yet it was sufficiently ambiguous (like a parable) to preserve the balance between concealment and disclosure in Jesus' life and mission (cf. Mark 4:11-12). It combined the elements of suffering and glory in a way no other designation could. It served to define His unique role as Messiah.691 

Elders ... priests ... teachers of religious law (Mark 8:31)

Jesus entered "a turning point to new content in His teaching"692 with his announcement that he, the Son of Man, would be rejected by the Sanhedrin ("the elders and the chief priests and the scribes" NASB),693 be executed, and rise from the dead three days later - thus predicting "a trial and a formal condemnation."694 The trial and execution would be an unjust attempt to get rid of Jesus, to put him out of the way.695 The Sanhedrin was "[t]he council or governing body that met in Jerusalem in NT times and that constituted the highest Jewish authority in Palestine prior to A.D. 70."696 Its 71 members "were drawn from the three classes named in Matthew 16:21; 27:41; Mark 8:31; 11:27; 14:43, 53; 15:1; Luke 9:22; 22:26: 'the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law.' By the chief priests is meant the acting high priest, those who had been high priests, and members of the privileged families from which the high priests were taken. The priestly aristocracy comprised the leading persons in the community, and they were the chief members of the Sanhedrin. The teachers of the law (KJV scribes) formed the Pharisaic element in the Sanhedrin, though not all Pharisees were professional scribes. The elders were the tribal and family heads of the people and priesthood. They were, for the most part, the secular nobility of Jerusalem."697 The Sanhedrin was "[h]eaded by the high priest of Israel ... [and it] was granted limited authority over certain religious, civil, and criminal matters by the foreign nations that dominated the land of Israel at various times in its history."698

Peter ... began to reprimand him (Mark 8:33)

Jesus' open talk of betrayal and death was simply too much for Peter and the other disciples to take in; it was beyond their capacity to accept. "The report of Peter's rebuke of Jesus is not meant to discredit Peter, but to underscore the surprising nature of Jesus' prediction."699 Why did Peter rebuke Jesus? Simply put, it was because to his way of thinking a martyred Messiah was no Messiah at all.700 "Peter's opposition rests on human ideas which cannot combine messiahship and suffering. But Jesus thinks the thoughts of God. His sense of his messiahship and messianic mission does not follow traditional patterns. He has a different understanding which he believes to be consonant with God's own thinking and purpose."701
We should note that "in Jesus' statements about his suffering, the announcement of his death is always accompanied by that of his resurrection"702 (see Matthew 12:40; 16:21; 17:9; 17:22-23; 20:18-19). This is because his death and resurrection is a twofold event - like two sides of the same coin - that declares Jesus to be the Christ/Messiah. Jesus' resurrection proved "his messiahship, which seemed to be disproved by his death on the cross."703 And so we should not be surprised to find "Peter say[ing] he was 'made' both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), signifying that the resurrection rightfully confirms him as such. Similarly, the apostle Paul speaks of Jesus' resurrection as a patent declaration of his inalienable right to the title (Romans 1:4)."704
Jesus said that he would not remain dead but would be resurrected on the third day. Did his disciples not believe him? It may well be that Peter and the other disciples (mis)interpreted Jesus' words as being a figure of speech - meaning "in a little while" - along the lines of Hosea's usage in referring to the nation of Israel's returning to God: "'Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him'" (Hosea 6:1-2).705 (It may well be that Jesus had this passage, along with several others from the OT, in mind when making his prediction706) This would explain why Jesus' clear and repeated references to his own resurrection (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33) fell on deaf ears: the disciples simply did not take Jesus' words literally.

Satan (Mark 8:33)

Was Jesus really calling Peter "Satan?" Since Peter was the group spokesman, Jesus' rebuke would have applied to the other disciples, as well.707 Hence we see Jesus turning and looking at his disciples prior to issuing his rebuke (v. 33). Besides that, however, since "satan" (Greek satanas) means "opponent" or "adversary,"708 it may be in this sense that Jesus was applying it to Peter, hence communicating something like: "Get behind me, you who oppose me!"709 But while Jesus may not have been literally calling Peter "Satan," he was very literally calling out the satanic opposition he recognized in Peter.710 "In his wilderness temptations, Jesus had been told that he could achieve greatness without dying (Matthew 4:8-9). Peter, in his rebuke of Jesus' words about dying, was saying the same thing."711 Among the practical lessons to be learned from this incident is the fact that many times "our most difficult temptations come from those who want to protect us from suffering."712
When we look at this incident as recorded by both Matthew and Mark and across several Bible translations/versions, we find that Peter's rebuke of Jesus represented a focus, concern, or mindset that values human thoughts, concerns, workings, and interests over those of God, and that such is nothing less than an obstacle, a danger, a hindrance, an offense, and a stumbling block to Jesus. Thus Peter was indeed serving as "an unwitting spokesman for Satan."713 Jesus used the term/title "Satan" because, like the Devil, Peter was "opposing the divine plan of man's redemption through Christ's sufferings and death."714 While it is true that "from the human point of view being subjected to suffering and being killed is unacceptable ... [f]rom God's point of view" it was "absolutely necessary."715 Jesus' rebuke helps drive home the fact that there is only one way of salvation and anything or anyone who opposes it, regardless of good or bad intentions, is in league with the Devil. "What a warning to watch our love, our good intentions, our best acts, lest perhaps they after all agree with Satan and not with Christ."716While the disciples loved and admired Jesus, their "job was not to guide and protect Jesus but to follow him."717
"Peter wanted Christ to be king, but not the suffering servant prophesied in Isaiah 53. He was ready to receive the glory of following the Messiah but not the persecution."718 While doubtless Peter was trying to protect Jesus, his concern was not entirely selfless. Peter and the other disciples would have been very well aware of the fate awaiting the followers of anyone executed by the Roman government. Having pinned all of their hopes and dreams on Jesus, they literally could not bear the thought of his being put to death as some sort of dangerous criminal and then, as if to add insult to injury, his followers being hounded out of existence. Forget about lost (earthly) glory, "grandeur and triumph"719 - the disciples would be fortunate if they could escape with their lives. Thus it is small wonder they could not bring themselves to understand/believe that Jesus was going to be put to death - despite his clear and repeated warnings (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34).

Your cross (Mark 8:34)

Living for God is in many ways more difficult than dying for him. Jesus' call to take up the cross is rich in meaning:

  • Self-Denial. "Deny" (Greek aparneomai) means "to deny utterly," and is the same word Jesus used when predicting that Peter would deny him (see Matthew 26:34-35; Mark 14:30-31; Luke 22:34, 61).720 It means "refus[ing] to give thought to or express concern for."721 Denying self "means self altogether, not merely some portion, some special habit or desire, some outward practice."722 Much more than mere self-reform, it "means to renounce self - to cease to make self the object of one's life and actions. This involves a fundamental reorientation of the principle of life. God, not self, must be at the center of life."723 In negative terms, self-denial involves letting go "of selfish desires and earthly security"724; stated positively, it calls for a daily commitment to trust Jesus, walk in his footsteps, and gratefully obey his commands.725

  • Suffering. In a time and place where crucifixion was a very common occurrence, the cross became a poignant symbol for absolute commitment to a cause - even to the point of physical death.726 Jesus' call to take up one's cross recalls, but goes beyond, the typical Jewish rabbi's injunction "to take up the yoke of Torah, or the yoke of the commandments."727 The cross is a sobering symbol of the suffering - including possible martyrdom - that lay in store for anyone choosing to follow Jesus.728 While only Christ's suffering and death has the power to atone for sins, we nonetheless have fellowship in his sufferings and follow in his steps as we too experience the cross before the crown.729

  • Submission. The cross was also a piercing symbol of submission. "The underlying figure [of taking up one's cross] is that of a condemned man who is forced to take up and carry his own cross to the place of execution."730 A condemned criminal was made to carry his own cross-beam as he was paraded through the streets of Jerusalem on his way to die a public, painful, and prolonged death. "Death came slowly to a crucified person, through exhaustion or by suffocation. And it came with great pain. Death by crucifixion was also considered a great disgrace."731 For all to see, the crucified person was forced to submit to the very authority against which he had rebelled.732 "Those who follow [Jesus] must take up their (not His) cross, whatever comes to them in God's will as a follower of Jesus. ... [This means being obedient] to God's will as revealed in His Word, accepting the consequences without reservations for Jesus' sake and the gospel (cf. Mark 8:35). For some this includes physical suffering and even death, as history has demonstrated (cf. Mark 10:38-39)."733 Christ "used the image of carrying a cross to illustrate the ultimate submission required of his followers. He is not against pleasure, nor was he saying that we should seek pain needlessly. Jesus was talking about the heroic effort needed to follow him moment by moment, to do his will even when the work is difficult and the future looks bleak."734

  • Rejection. "To bear the cross means to accept the rejection of the world for turning to Jesus and following him. Discipleship involves a death that is like a crucifixion" (see Galatians 6:14).735 Along these lines, saving versus losing one's life can be seen as a stark reminder "that if one comes to Jesus then rejection by many will certainly follow. If self-protection is a key motivation, then one will not respond to Jesus and will not be saved. One who is willing to risk rejection will respond and find true life."736

  • Right Priorities. Verses 35-38 actually begin with the word "For" (see NASB), and so represent an extended definition of discipleship.737 It involves: 1) losing (but not hating738) one's life "in loyalty to Jesus and the gospel" (v. 35)739 - that is, faith as evidenced by faithfulness740 , 2) valuing eternal life with God more than the passing pleasures of the world, including "possessions, position, or power"741 (vv. 36-37), and 3) embracing rather than rejecting Jesus (v. 38).742

The last point is worth emphasizing. What we do with Jesus in the present will determine what he does with us in the future. "We can reject Jesus now and be rejected by him at his second coming, or we can accept him now and be accepted by him then. Rejecting Christ may help us escape shame for the time being, but it will guarantee an eternity of shame later."743 What does it mean to reject/disown Jesus? Put simply, it means doing the opposite of what Jesus said: "'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me'" (v. 34). Thus to reject/disown Jesus means: to have no desire to follow him, to continue in our selfish ways, to refuse to submit and suffer for our faith, and to follow anyone and anything other than Jesus. Notice, too, the link between Jesus and the Gospel: "' ... if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News ... '" (v. 35). Because Jesus cannot be separated from his message, to reject Jesus is to reject the Gospel, and to reject the Gospel is to reject Jesus.744 

HEAR (heart)

The Cross Before the Crown

Bible commentator Albert Barnes offers several poignant remarks regarding cross-bearing:

When persons were condemned to be crucified, a part of the sentence was that they should carry the cross on which they were to die to the place of execution. Thus, Christ carried his, until he fainted from fatigue and exhaustion. ... [The cross] was an instrument of death. ... To carry it was burdensome, was disgraceful, was trying to the feelings, was an addition to the punishment. So "to carry the cross" is a figurative expression, denoting that we must endure whatever is burdensome, or is trying, or is considered disgraceful, in following Christ. It consists simply in doing our duty, let the people of the world think of it or speak of it as they may. It does not consist in making trouble for ourselves, or doing things merely "to be opposed"; it is doing just what is required of us in the Scriptures, let it produce whatever shame, disgrace, or pain it may. This every follower of Jesus is required to do.745
Peter "was ready to receive the glory of following the Messiah, but not the persecution. The Christian life is not a paved road to wealth and ease. It often involves hard work, persecution, deprivation, and deep suffering. Satan wants to deter us from sacrifice and service by telling us that our difficulties are meaningless, our pain is futile, and that evil will win anyway. Instead [of listening to Satan, we need to] focus on the good that God can bring out of suffering and on the resurrection that follows crucifixion."746

DO (hands)

"True wealth is, above all else, having eternal life. People will die in their sins if they reject Christ, because they are rejecting the only way to be rescued from sin. Sadly, many are so taken up with the values of this world that they are blind to the priceless gift Christ offers. Where are you looking? Don't focus on this world's values and miss what is most valuable - eternal life with God."747
??? A popular but extremely dangerous teaching today is that Jesus came so that we can have health and wealth. How does Jesus' words regarding following him help to correct such a notion?
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