Pastor David B. Curtis


An Unpopular Teaching

Mark 8:31-33

Delivered 09/03/2006

We have seen that beginning with chapter 6 of Mark, Mark is dealing with our Lord's training of the twelve disciples as He seeks to instruct them about who He is, and to help their faith grow. Every miracle was a teaching time. He healed the deaf man to show that they need their spiritual ears opened. And He healed a blind man to demonstrate that they are spiritually blind and need to be healed. Jesus fed the five thousand Jews with five loaves and had twelve baskets of leftovers showing that He was the bread of life for Israel. Then He fed the four thousand Gentiles with four loaves and had seven baskets of leftovers showing that He was the bread of life for the Gentiles also. Jesus is the bread of life. Where was Jesus born? Bethlehem! This comes from two words bayith, meaning: "house"; and lechem, meaning: "bread." Jesus was born in the "house of bread." What do we call a house of bread? A bakery! The bread of life was born in a bakery.

Jesus, the "bread of life," offers spiritual food that will completely satisfy our hunger. The word picture of the bread reveals that He alone offers the spiritual truth that provides life.

We saw in our last study that Peter, who was most likely speaking for all the disciples, said:

Mark 8:29 (NASB) And He continued by questioning them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered and said to Him, "Thou art the Christ."

This meant that the disciples had begun to grasp something of His nature as God the Son and His office as the promised Messiah. Yet, it is not that they understood this fully, as is evident after the resurrection where Thomas makes the staggering confession, "My Lord and my God!" They had grasped that He was the Messiah, but they failed to understand why Christ came. While visions of armies, kingly processions, and triumph over Rome danced in their heads, they missed the central focus of Jesus Christ in His redemptive work. The idea of the cross and Christ's death appeared unthinkable to them.

Remember the setting: They are in Caesarea Philippi, which was the world center for the worship of Pan the Greek fertility god. Peter, through the revelation of God, says that Jesus is the Christ ­ He is the Messiah of Israel . From Matthew's account we learn that Jesus' response was: Yes, I am and I am going to build my church on this rock, which I believe was a reference to "the rock of the gods," the pagan shrine of Pan. Jesus was telling His disciples to take the gospel of the kingdom to these sick perverted people; they need to know of My healing grace. Then in the very next verse in Mark He tells them that His church will be built on His sacrificial death for sinners. It is His blood that will conquer the "gates of Hades."

Mark 8:31 (NASB) 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.

This is the first of three predictions by Jesus of His destiny in Jerusalem; the others are at 9:31 and 10:33-34. The word "began" is in the aorist tense and looks at a definite beginning. As Peter declares Jesus to be the Messiah, his personal faith in the person of Christ moves Christ to provide information regarding the work He came to do. Christ tells the disciples that because He is the Messiah, four things must happen:

1. He must suffer many things
2. He will be rejected by the religious leaders
3. He will be killed
4. He will rise again from the dead after three days

In each of these statements the Lord uses an infinitive to show that these are results of His mission. This is like saying to the disciples, you have seen my mission, this is what is going to result.

This is the first open declaration by Jesus that there was coming a time when He would suffer at the hands of the religious leaders. This declaration of suffering and death must have come as quite a shock to them seeing as the day's concept of who the Messiah would be and what He'd do was so far removed from what Jesus now declares the will of God. These twelve men had been spending every moment with Jesus for several years. If He was the Messiah, that meant that they would reign with Him. To hear Him talk of suffering and death would have felt like they were punched in the stomach. How could Messiah suffer and die? He was to destroy their enemies and rule.

Mark specifically tells us that it was at this point that He began to teach them, but He had hinted at it before. Strictly speaking, the disciples should have been prepared for this, but, like us, they had the ability to make words mean what they wanted them to mean. There are several accounts of His suffering and death in the gospels before this. In John's Gospel we are told that in his earliest ministry in Jerusalem, Jesus said to the Jews:

John 2:19 (NASB) Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

What temple is He talking about? His body:

John 2:20-21 (NASB) The Jews therefore said, "It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.

He had said to Nicodemus, who came to him by night:

John 3:14 (NASB) "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;

He had said to these disciples:

Mark 2:20 (NASB) "But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.

And just a few days earlier, as Matthew records, He had said there would be given the sign of the prophet Jonah:

Matthew 12:40 (NASB) for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

But these allusions were in the nature of riddles, and the disciples did not understand them. They didn't understand because their hearts were hardened:

Mark 6:52 (NASB) for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.

So Jesus had hinted at His suffering and death previously, but now He plainly tells them of His coming death:

Mark 8:31 (NASB) 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.

Notice the "must." "Must" controls the entire clause. Jesus must suffer, be rejected by the Sanhedrin, be killed, and rise again. These are a necessity for Christ ­ a non-negotiable. The suffering and death of Christ was a divine necessity. It is not surprising that Jesus saw His future in terms of suffering. He had witnessed what had happened to John the Baptizer, He knew of the growing antagonism against Him, He knew of the career of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. Please keep in mind that as a Rabbi with authority (the Jews called it semikhah), Jesus would have had the whole Old Testament memorized. He knew these passages:

Isaiah 52:13-15 (NASB) Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted. 14 Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So His appearance was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men. 15 Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand.
Isaiah 53 (NASB) Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. 3 He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 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. 6 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. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living, For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? 9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 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. 11 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. 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.

Jesus knew of the Smitten Shepherd in:

Zechariah 13:7 (NASB) "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, And against the man, My Associate," Declares the LORD of hosts. "Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; And I will turn My hand against the little ones.

And with this passage in Zechariah in mind, He says:

John 10:11 (NASB) "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

He knew of the references to the suffering of the godly in the Psalms 22; and 118:10 on, and He knew that the Son of Man in Daniel, as the representative of God's people, came out of suffering into the presence of God.

Yes, the suffering and death of Messiah were a must ­ a divine necessity, spoken of throughout the Law and the Prophets. Listen to what Peter said after Pentecost:

Acts 2:22-23 (NASB) "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-- 23 this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

Christ went to the cross, because that was the Father's will. Only through such a death on behalf of His people could forgiveness be granted and relationship to God be established for sinners; because only through such a death could God's eternal justice be satisfied. Consider how Jesus expressed this clearly in:

John 10:14-15 (NASB) "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.
John 10:17-18 (NASB) "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life 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. This commandment I received from My Father."

Why did Jesus die on the cross? The Father commanded it of Him. The Father's will in redeeming sinners radiates from the cross. There divine mercy and divine justice met in eternal satisfaction. There the gospel becomes the gospel (good news) for sinners.

We must get firmly in our thinking that the cross was not God's Plan B or an unfortunate option among different choices or something over which He had no control. The will of God was never more fully accomplished than by the Son of God at the cross. So why was His death and resurrection a divine necessity?

God's justice requires it. God's justice requires legal satisfaction for the grace of forgiveness to be given. The long string of animal sacrifices in the Old Testament bear witness to the satisfaction of God's justice, each one foreshadowing the day that the Lamb of God would bear the weight of divine justice at the cross. Paul uses both accounting and legal language to express Christ removing through the cross the legal obligations against us due to divine justice:

Colossians 2:14 (NASB) having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Paul also explained the reason for Christ's death as a divine satisfaction (the term is "propitiation") of His eternal justice, he wrote:

Romans 3:25-26 (NASB) whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

What does propitiation mean? It is the removal of wrath by the offering of a sacrifice. God could not forgive anyone without His own justice first being satisfied; and that He did through Christ's death on the cross for all that would trust in His Son.

The message of the Gospel is the vicarious substitutionary atonement of Christ on the Cross. By "vicarious" we mean that Jesus' death on the Cross is our death to sin. When He died there, we died with Him. By "substitutionary" we mean that Jesus took our place and paid the penalty for our sins. By "atonement" we mean that Jesus, in paying for our sins, has made us right with God. And if we will believe in Him, what He did on the Cross will become effective for us. His death for our sin cannot be left out of any Gospel message. Because without His death on the Cross, we could not receive forgiveness of sins. That is why Jesus came. And that is why He rebuked Peter.

Mark 8:31 (NASB) 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.

"And be rejected by the elders, and the chief priests and the scribes"­ these were the three groups that made up the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Law Court. The elders were the prominent lay people on the Council (11.27; 14.43, 53; 15.1), the chief priests were the hierarchy, and the scribes were the Doctors of the Law. He was already rejected by many of them, and He recognized that almost all of them would turn against Him.

What Jesus appears to be saying, however, is that all the Jewish religious leaders will come together to condemn Him, not just those who came from these groups and who formed part of the official Greater Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.

"And be killed" ­ We have here an evidence of how carefully the actual words of Jesus were preserved. It would have been so easy to alter it to "crucified," especially in the light of verse 34, and the fact that crucifixion was the normal death under the Romans for high treason, but they did not.

Although there were numerous differing concepts of what Messiah would do amongst the nation of Israel at that time, one of the most common was that He'd be a great deliverer from the oppression of the Roman occupation forces who dominated the area and forbade Israel to be little more than people who had to jump every time their fingers were snapped.

Most (including the Twelve) were expecting a victorious Messiah by conventional means. The Jewish understanding of the Christ (i.e., "Messiah") was that He would bring deliverance through conquest. Here, Jesus explains that He will bring deliverance through the cross. He would achieve victory through suffering. He would take up the cross, not the crown.

The longing for a deliverance from this set up cannot be over emphasized if we are to understand Peter's horror at hearing Jesus' words.

"And after three days rise again" ­ The idea of a third day resurrection is taken from:

Hosea 6:1-2 (NASB) "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. 2 "He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day That we may live before Him.

Both Matthew and Luke interpret the "three days" of Mark as "the third day," interpreted in the light of the suffering Servant of Isaiah. Indeed the Servant's task could only be fulfilled by resurrection. How else could He receive the spoils of victory (Isaiah 53:12)?

Mark 8:32 (NASB) And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.

The tense of the Greek verb "plainly" is such that it should be translated, "He continued saying this plainly." Over and over He taught them what would happen. This brief comment clearly indicates that Mark allows no possibility of Jesus being misunderstood. What Jesus said was no parable, cloaked in language that needed to be understood in spiritual terms for the truth to be made known. He records that Jesus spoke of His own suffering "plainly" and it seems obvious also that the disciples understood it this way judging from Peter's response.

Peter did not want to make an open issue of the matter, and did not want to embarrass Jesus or himself, so he took Jesus aside and rebuked Him. The word "rebuke" is fairly strong.

The rebuke takes us quite by surprise. No friend of Jesus had ever rebuked Him in this way over His teaching, or, as far as we know, would again. There is no doubt that Peter's rebuke was presumptions from a disciple to his Rabbi, especially such a Rabbi as Jesus had revealed Himself to be, and when heard for the first time it comes as a distinct shock. It certainly revealed that Peter had the wrong idea of what the Messiahship he had mentioned involved for Jesus, and it equally certainly showed that he had wrong ideas of his own importance and understanding.

When Jesus talked about suffering and death, the disciples must have thought, How can He even hope to accomplish what He has outlined, if that is the case? They find His words unbelievable. They are startled, amazed, mystified. So finally, Peter rebukes the Lord.

And in that rebuke of Peter, according to the words Matthew gives us, you find the basic philosophy of the world stated very precisely: "Spare yourself. Spare yourself, Lord! Nothing is more important than you." Is this not the way men live? "I'll give up anything except my own interests. Nothing is more important than I am." This is the way men live. We all feel the pressure of this philosophy upon us. Think of yourself first. Take care of yourself. Provide for yourself ­ nobody else is going to do it. How that attitude underlies everything we see on television, in magazines, and all the other media. The whole advertising system of our day is built upon it. "You deserve the best. You deserve this vacation. You deserve all that we are offering to you. Think of yourself." But this attitude is anything but biblical and Christlike:

Philippians 2:3-5 (NASB) Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

What attitude did Christ have that we are to have? If you know the context of the text, you'll know the answer. Humility!

Philippians 2:6-8 (NASB) who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Are you a disciple of Jesus? If you are, you will share His mindset ­ His thinking.

I don't know how many of you are like me, and from time to time you say things and then you think; Oh, why did I say that? I should have thought before I spoke. Where do I inherit this tendency? Well friends, it goes back at least as far as Peter.

Why did Peter reject this truth of the Messiah's suffering and death and then go so far as to rebuke the one he has just recognized as God? Simple: He did not like what Jesus said. It did not line up with what he wanted. It did not conform to Peter's world view, nor to his Human viewpoint. Peter, along with us, needs to heed the words of Isaiah:

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NASB) "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Here with Peter, and with the words of Isaiah, we need to realize that we will not always understand what God is doing, but that is not at issue ­ at issue is whether we put our faith in Him and trust Him for what He is doing. Job didn't understand, but he trusted.

Peter did not like the fact that Jesus said He was going to die, and so often we do not like what the Lord is saying to us through His word and in the circumstances of life.

Mark 8:33 (NASB) But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter, and said, "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."

Only Mark records that when Jesus turned to address Peter directly, He notices the disciples. At Peter's words, Jesus turned around to check on the other disciples, probably to see if they had heard. And once He saw that they were aware of what Peter was doing, He clearly felt that He had to put things right very firmly. They all looked up to Peter, and it had to be made clear to them all that his present ideas were not only not reliable, but, in fact, came from a very dangerous source. We should always consider people's feelings, but there are times when a person's feelings have to come second to the truth, especially when open error is involved.

"He rebuked Peter" ­ Whereas Peter's rebuke was a present tense infinitive, the Lord's rebuke of Peter was an aorist tense, indicative. This change in form shows that the Lord gave a very specific and definite rebuke.

"Get behind me, Satan" ­ This rebuke should come to us, as it came to them, as a distinct shock. Its impact must have been huge. Peter must have been shaken to the core, and the other disciples almost as much; to be openly called "Satan." And it was intended by Jesus to have this effect.

Peter's words were dangerous in the extreme. They went against the whole purposes of God, and had to be shown for what they were. To go against His words was to behave as Satan. It was direct rebellion against God.

What Jesus was saying in a most uncompromising fashion was that Peter had become Satan's instrument through a combination of self-conceit and worldly wisdom, and that, as such, he could have no part in Jesus. He must "get behind Him." Only once he had come to his senses could he once more be accepted face to face.

If we equate this passage with that which occurred in the wilderness in Matthew 4:8-10, we can see that the same temptation, which Satan directly offered to Jesus there ­ that He could obtain authority over the Kingdoms of the world without the path which led to the cross ­ is the one which Peter suggests "as a friend." The temptation is so similar, then, as to be one and the same, even if it's with different words and from a different motive.

By valuing the things human beings value (like lack of suffering), Peter shows himself in league with the devil. The religious leaders later echoed Satan's temptation as well:

Matthew 27:42-43 (NASB) "He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we shall believe in Him. 43 "HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET HIM DELIVER Him now, IF HE TAKES PLEASURE IN HIM; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.'"

We must not soften the situation by suggesting that Jesus was actually addressing Satan. He was addressing one who had allowed himself, through folly and pride and carelessness, to become Satan's messenger. The words that follow are not directed at Satan, but at Peter.

"You are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's" ­ The word translated "mind" is the Greek word phroneo, which means: "to think", "to form or hold an opinion," "to make a judgment," and can mean: "to have the same thoughts as." We see this same word used in:

Philippians 2:5 (NASB) Have this attitude [phroneo] in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

Phroneo could involve taking someone's side, espousing someone's cause. And that seems to be what is in mind here. Peter is unconsciously siding with men confused by Satan, and not with God. One moment he almost seemed to know the truth, the next He was blind to the truth. His spiritual sight was limited and partial.

In other words, what is at stake, what is most important, is not what we think that Christ ought to do or how we think Christianity should be established. What matters is God's will. And the only place that we find life, forgiveness, peace, and a right standing with God can be found only in this will of God ­ trusting the crucified and risen Christ. The only place that God is glorified is in His will being accomplished. For that reason, the cross redounds to the glory of God!

Peter being called Satan by Jesus was so startling that it must have burned itself into the minds of His disciples, and that was Jesus' intention. It made them recognize that they were totally wrong about their expectations. They were always wary in the future what they said to Jesus (and about Jesus).

We all need to work to replace human viewpoint with Divine viewpoint. And that can only come about as we choose to learn the Word, as we choose to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. And if Jesus' mission involves the cross, those who would follow him must embrace the same price.

You don't hear much today in American "churcheanity" about suffering. We can wear crosses as jewelry, mainly because the Christian symbol has lost much of its original significance; few of us would enjoy sporting a miniature electric chair or gallows around our neck. There was no greater way in which people of the first century could express their utter disgust with a human being than by crucifying them. It was the chief, the most extreme form of human degradation, that existed. It was, in the fullest sense of the word, an obscenity. In polite Roman society, the word "cross" was an obscenity, not to be uttered in conversation. Cicero said, "Let the very name of the cross be far removed not only from the body of a Roman citizen, but even from his thoughts, his eyes, his ears." By Jewish law, anyone who was crucified died under the curse of God.

Some Western Christians expect unlimited prosperity or teach that Christians will escape all tribulation, while many of our brothers and sisters elsewhere (such as in Iran or the Sudan) die for their faith. Is it possible that some health/wealth Christians today are still speaking the devil's message?

At the cross of Christ, God triumphed. The triumph over sin, death, hell, and Satan; and the triumph of God's law, justice, righteousness, and holiness center in the death and resurrection of His Son. John's Revelation pulls back the curtain for just a glimpse of this, as the angelic host and the redeemed of the ages glory in the triumph of God through Christ:

Revelation 5:12-13 (NASB) saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." 13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."

God's eternal purpose centers in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why did Christ do it? Why did He die on the cross? To be our substitute!

Romans 5:8 (NASB) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

He died for US! Jesus did all the work, all we need do is trust what He did. Luther said, "Nothing more is required of justification than to hear of Jesus Christ and believe on Him as our Savior." Salvation is free, but it wasn't cheep.

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