Mark 8: 27 – 9: 1
Jesus was teaching in Galilee, near Caesarea, when He felt it was time His disciples were clued-in to the last days of His physical presence with them. They had approximately 3 years to closely observe His lifestyle and listened to His teachings, both private and public. But what He had to say nevertheless stunned them. It was critical that they knew who He was and what His Father’s objective was in this interregnum of His life. First, He dealt with man’s exceptionally finite comprehension of His infinite identity, before announcing the course of His own demise.
“Who do people say I am?” elicited an acknowledgment from Peter, who probably spoke for the others’ as well, “You are the messiah – the Anointed One.” Their Jewish expectation was that He would be their deliverer from the Romans, a realization of Israel’s hopes! Then, He punctured their aspirations once for all by His self-revelation from the Divine perspective of the Son of Man (cf. Dan 7:13f); He was going to be killed by the establishment, but would be resurrected! To the disciples, it was a double whammy of incomprehensible information! It was bizarre for them to hear that the Messiah must suffer and be killed (v.31). The paradox of the transcendent Son of Man suffering, and eventually revealing Himself in glory at a future date (v.38; 13:26; 62) was probably not well understood by His disciples at the time. Mark referred to ‘the Son of Man’ 14 times in his Gospel, and it’s apt to conclude that His importance encompassed everything that involves man, from God’s redemptive design to the final judgment.
The death of the Son of Man was necessary for a few reasons. God had to demonstrate His radical love for mankind through His sinless Son; a love that was unconditional and vulnerable, a love that humans are incapable of outside of Christ, and in doing so He paid the penalty for our sins (Rom 5:8; Col 2:13-14). Forgiveness inevitably involved suffering, then and now, as there was a need for a price to be paid! At the cross, Jesus also defeated the supernatural and worldly powers that govern our domain, to free those who trust Him from being trapped in their grasp (Col 2:15). In that sense, transforming their identity from one that was self-centered to Christ-centered (2 Cor 5:17).
The unavoidable discipling criterion that resulted from Peter’s confession followed immediately. Jesus’ proviso “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (v.34) topsy-turvied all their societal norms in terms of their identity or self-worth as valuable citizens. The basis for change was at the heart of the gospel (v.35-36), because at the cross, the source of His identity – His relationship with His Father, was terminated (Matt 27:46). The believers’ transformation was exceptionally revolutionary because it involved the ‘loss’ of their life (v.35-36). What does it mean for His disciples to take up their crosses and follow Him? As disciples, they were to relinquish their existing worldly identity, literally a dying to self, and to loose their life for God’s purposes and the gospel as Christ becomes their center. Nothing else mattered.
Further, they will witness a day where they will see the power of the kingdom among them (9:1). It was possible that Jesus may have been referring to His transfiguration that was to follow 6 days later (9:2), or His resurrection and Pentecost. This explicit demonstration of God’s supernatural power indicated a commitment to His Son and through Him, His followers; symbolizing a new hope for His people as they would inevitably face hardships in the days following His physical departure from them (v.38). Our eternal destiny is certainly dependent on our relationship to Jesus Christ, therefore, our life and its course ought to be inextricably linked with God’s plan for us as a Christological community. Surrender and commitment was the quintessential conduct Jesus was looking for from His disciples and followers. It will not by any means be an easy journey for most of us as we find it a struggle to give up our control over life generally. But that is due to the fact that without allowing ourselves to be loved without conditions or prerequisites, we would never be able to live the great commandment to love. We must allow our Father to fully embrace us!