Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by John Mark. More specifically, today’s passage begins with the thirty-first verse of the eighth chapter and continues through to the thirteenth verse of the ninth chapter. SUFFERING FROM A PLACE OF IDENTITY! TEMPTED FROM A PLACE OF IDENTITY! IDENTITY! SUFFERING! TRANSFIGURATION! CHRIST’S SUFFERING IS AN INVITATION! IN CHRIST’S SUFFERING WE ARE INVITED TO A LIFE OF DENIAL AND TAKING UP OUR CROSS! JESUS’ SUFFERING WAS LINKED TO DEATH AND HIS DEATH WAS LINKED TO RESURRECTION! THOU ART THE CHRIST! THIS IS MY BELOVED SON! THE PROCLAMATION OF THE FATHER AND THE DECLARATION OF A DISCIPLE! When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find Jesus beginning to speak something very specific unto His disciples—something which up until this point in time He had not yet even mentioned. As you begin reading what is contained within this passage of scripture you will find Jesus beginning to speak unto His disciples concerning the ultimate mission for which He came and for which He was sent. The more you read and the more you study the New Testament gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ you will find that there was a marked and noticeable transition which began to take place within His ministry—namely, that He would begin preparing His disciples for His suffering and for His death. When reading the New Testament gospel of Matthew and then beginning to write about it I found myself being absolutely gripped and absolutely captivated by the fact that as certainly and as surely as Jesus began speaking to His disciples concerning His suffering, He also directly linked His suffering to His death. What’s more, is that as much as Jesus linked His suffering ultimately to His death, He directly linked His death to His resurrection. Oh please don’t miss this incredible reality, for although Jesus would suffer, and although His suffering would ultimately lead to His death, His death would not be the end of the story. It was true that Jesus would suffer at the hands of the religious leaders, and would suffer at the hands of the scribes and Pharisees, and that He would die, but there would and there could be conversation conversation concerning His death without talking about His resurrection, for death would not be the end of the story, nor would death be the end of His mission and ministry.
As you approach this passage of scripture you will notice that it flies directly in the heels of Jesus engaging in a very specific dialogue and encounter with His disciples. I am convinced that in order for us to truly understand the words and the language which Jesus spoke concerning His suffering and his death we must understand that which is found and contained within the preceding passage of scripture. If you turn and direct your attention to the previous passage found within the New Testament gospel of Mark you will find that just before Jesus began speaking unto His disciples concerning His suffering and His death He first engaged them in a very specific dialogue concerning His identity and who He truly was. If you begin reading with the previous five to six verses you will find that when Jesus and His disciples reached Caesarea Philippi He asked them a very specific and a very pointed question—one that I am sure burned within their psyches and one which burned within their hearts and their minds. The question which Jesus asked the disciples was actually two-fold, for the second question asked would be entirely based and entirely contingent on the first question that was asked of His disciples. What’s more, is that as you read the four gospels written by the gospel authors you will find that this is the second account and record of Jesus engaging in this dialogue with His disciples. This particular dialogue is previously found for the first time in the New Testament gospel which was written by the apostle Matthew, and more specifically is found in the sixteenth chapter. That which we find in this passage of scripture is Jesus first asking His disciples who men said that He the Son of man was. I have to admit that this first question is actually striking when you consider it, for it almost seems that Jesus was interested in what men said about Him, and even what men believed about Him. What is so interesting and unique about this question if that it causes the disciples to engage themselves in a dialogue concerning who those around them said, spoke and declared or Jesus the Christ. This question which Jesus asked His disciples was one that caused them to consider that which the people whom they had encountered during their time following Jesus had said and were saying about Him. Undoubtedly having spent a considerable amount of time walking with and following Jesus the Christ they would have heard the countless opinions and the countless dialogues concerning who Jesus truly was.
As I sit here this morning I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated by the fact that Jesus didn’t immediately ask His disciples whom they said and whom they believed Him to be. Although and while Jesus would ultimately ask the disciples whom they said and whom they believed Him to be, He wanted to first get out of the way who others said and who others believed Him to be. There is not a doubt in my mind that there would most certainly be opinions which would be circulating concerning and circulating regarding The Who Jesus the Christ truly was. We are only in the eighth and ninth chapters of the New Testament gospel count of His life and ministry as recorded by John Mark, but thus far we have seen and witnessed Jesus engaging in countless interactions with men and within within Jerusalem, as well as within the region of Judaea. We have witnessed Jesus casting and driving out unclean spirits, we have watched and witnessed Jesus cause the blind to see, we have watched Jesus restore hearing to the deaf, and even speech to the mute. We have watched as Jesus caused the lame and the paralyzed to take Ho their mat and to get up and walk. We have watched Jesus feed two different multitudes and two different crowds of people with loaves of bread, as well as a few fishes. We have watched as Jesus taught the crowds concerning the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, as well as concerning Himself and concerning His Father who was in heaven. Now we come to a point and place within His life and ministry when He pulls His disciples away and apart from the crowds of people by themselves in order that He might have a serious conversation concerning who they said and who they believed Him to be. In all reality, I am convinced that there are two distinct principles at work within this passage of scripture and within this encounter. The first is centered upon a right thinking and a proper belief concerning who men say Jesus is and what men believe about Jesus the Christ. The second is how who men said Jesus was and who men believed believed Jesus to be was directly linked to His suffering and His death, and would stand and serve as the background and foundation for understanding His suffering and ultimately His death. I am convinced that what we find in verses twenty-seven through thirty of the of the eighth chapter is actually a wonderful and powerful picture concerning how perhaps the single most important reality within our hearts and our lives is what we believe concerning Jesus the Christ. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we think and what we believe about Jesus the Christ is fundamentally the most important reality that is found within our lives for everything within our hearts and our lives flows forth and flows out of this particular reality.
When you read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will find Jesu beginning to ask His disciples concerning whom men said He the Son of man was, and in all reality whom men said and believed Him to be. We dare not miss and we dare not lose sight of this all important reality, for as surely and as certainly as what we think, what we believe, and what we say about Jesus is of the utmost importance within our hearts and lives—particularly and especially when you consider the fact that we have always been and will always be surrounded by and inundated with opinions of others concerning who Jesus is, and who they believe Jesus to be. The question which Jesus asked His disciples was actually quite remarkable and quite astounding for that which He was doing was acknowledging the fact that there were those before and around them during that time who all had their own opinions and their own views of who Jesus is. Regardless of whether or not you were the recipient of a miracle of Jesus the Christ, or whether or not you had partaken of the loaves of bread and the fishes, you had some sort of and some type of opinion concerning whom Jesus the Christ truly was. In fact, if you journey back to the beginning of this particular gospel account you will find that those in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth had their own opinions of whom He was and whom they believed Him to be. As you read the four gospel accounts you will find the authors writing concerning Jesus’ time in Nazareth, and something very specific concerning the perception and the opinion of who Jesus the Christ truly was in their eyes and in their opinion. This particular reality is found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark, but it is also found in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel which was written by the apostle Matthew. Consider if you will both accounts concerning Jesus in His hometown of Nazareth and especially concerning the opinions those within His own hometown had concerning and about Him. Beginning with the first verse of the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel which was written by John mark we find the following words which were written concerning Jesus in His hometown of Nazareth:
“And He went out from thence, and came into His own country; and His disciples follow Him. And when the sabbath day was come, He began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? And what wisdom is this which is given unto Him, that even such mighty works are wrought by His hand? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at Him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty works ave that He laid His hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. And He went round about the villages teaching” (Mark 6:1-6).
That which we find and that which we read in this particular passage of Scripture is actually first recorded and first found in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. If you turn and direct your attention to the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel which was written concerning Jesus the Christ by the apostle Matthew who walked with and followed Him you will find the same account of Jesus in His hometown of Nazareth. If you begin reading with and from the fifty-third verse of the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the following words which were spoken by those within Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, and the direct impact and affect their belief and their opinion of Him had among them with Jesus present among them. Consider if you will the words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the fifty-third verse of the thirteenth chapter:
“And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed thence. And when He was come into his own country, He taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in Him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:53-58).
It’s actually quite interesting and quite astounding to note and consider that this particular event is recorded in more detail and in more depth in the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel which was written by the beloved physician Luke. If you begin reading with and from the fourteenth verse of the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke you will find the following words which were written concerning this particular time Jesus spent in His hometown of Nazareth. Consider if you will the words and language which is found within the fourth chapter of this New Testament gospel as was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke beginning with the fourteenth verse:
“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because HE hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son? And he said unto them, Ye will s Urey say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. And all they in the synagogue when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong. But He passing through the midst of them went His way, and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. And they were astonished at His doctrine: for his word was with power” (Luke 4:14-32).
It is necessary that we consider the accounts of Jesus within His hometown of Nazareth, for what we find and what we read within each of these passages shines a great a deal of light onto the perception and opinions concerning Jesus the Christ within His own hometown of Nazareth. When Jesus asked His disciples whom others said that He the Son of man was, He was acknowledging that there were reports circulating concerning whom others before and around them believed Him to be. This is perhaps most evident within His hometown of Nazareth, for their opinion of Him was that He was the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of those who were still present among them to that day. Those within the city of Nazareth had their own opinion of Jesus the Christ, and their opinion was entirely and largely based on their familiarity with Him based on His growing up within that town. For thirty years Jesus grew up within the town of Nazareth and those within the town grew to know who He was. The interesting and intriguing reality concerning this, however, was that they knew him in relation to his earthly father Joseph, as well as the earthly work He engaged in—namely that of carpentry. It was incredibly difficult for those within the town of Nazareth to understand and comprehend Jesus Christ in relation to His Heavenly Father, and even to consider Him in light of the countless works and wonders which He had performed among men during those times. Those within Nazareth could not separate Jesus from being the son of Mary, and from being directly linked to His brothers and sisters who were still present among them at that time. This is actually worth noting and worth considering, for Scripture goes on to record how Jesus could there do no mighty work save lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them because of their unbelief and because of the hardness of their heart. What we find in Nazareth is a wonderful and powerful illustration of the tremendous reality that what we think about and what we believe concerning Jesus the Christ has the ability to directly impact and affect His ministry within our hearts and lives. Those within the town of Nazareth knew who Jesus was based on thirty years of familiarity, and it was precisely because of that familiarity that they could only see Him as the carpenter, and as the son of Mary whose brothers and sisters were among them. When Jesus asked the disciples whom others said that He was, He was essentially asking them whether or not they were listening, and whether or not they were paying attention to that which others were saying about Him. This is actually quite remarkable when you consider the fact that although they walked with and although they followed Jesus, they would still be subject to the opinions of others concerning who Jesus the Christ truly was. It was true that they followed Jesus the Christ and that they walked with Him, however, even though they walked with and followed Him, they would constantly hear, and perhaps even be bombarded by the opinions of others concerning Him. In each city they traveled, and in each town they traveled, and in each village they journeyed to, there would undoubtedly be opinions which would be spoken concerning Jesus the Christ based on His teaching and based on His works. Despite the fact that Jesus initially asked the disciples whom men said that He the Son of man was, He brought it back to whom they said and whom they believed He was based on personal fellowship and based on person relationship with Him.
As you read the New Testament gospel of Mark and come to the thirty-first verse of the eighth chapter you will find that directly on the heels of Jesus asking the disciples whom others said that he the Son of man was, and following that up with asking them whom they said and whom they believed Him to be, He then immediately began speaking to them concerning His suffering, and ultimately His death. When you begin reading with and from the thirty-first verse of the eighth chapter you will find that Jesus began to teach the disciples how the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, of the chief priests, and scribes, and ultimately be killed. This flew directly in the face of everything they believed and thought concerning Jesus the Christ, for they had spent three and a half years following Jesus, and yet now He was beginning to speak unto them concerning His suffering and death. Up until that moment in time Jesus had made no mention of His suffering, and had made no mention concerning His death, and yet here we find Jesus speaking of His suffering and His death. What’s more, is that His teaching concerning His own suffering came directly on the heels of a place of personal reflection and personal revelation concerning who Jesus the Christ was. This is especially true, for if you journey back not that much further in this particular gospel you will find that when Jesus came unto them walking in the midst of their storm upon the water, and when He entered into the ship thus causing the storm to be completely still, they worshipped Him and declared of Him that truly He was the Son of God. There is not a doubt in my mind that the disciples knew who Jesus was, and they believed that Jesus was in fact the Christ, and was in fact the Son of the living God. When Peter responded to Jesus’ question concerning whom they said and whom they believed Him to be, Peter emphatically declared that he was the Christ, the Son of the living God. From that place of personal revelation Jesus would then begin speaking unto and teaching them that He would be rejected by the chief priests, would be rejected by the scribes, would be rejected of the elders of Israel, and would ultimately be killed. What’s actually quite interesting about this is that the same disciple who emphatically declared that Jesus was in fact the Christ and the Son of the living God was the same disciple who would pull Christ aside and rebuke Him for declaring and believing that He would suffer many things at the chief priests, at the hands of the scribes, and at the hands of the elders of Israel. The same disciple who emphatically declared that Jesus was the Christ the Son of the living God based on personal revelation from the Father who was in heaven would be the same disciple who would rebuke Jesus after hearing Him teach and speak of His suffering, and ultimately His death. Oh, it is imperative and necessary that we get and that we understand this, for it brings us face to face with the reality of whom we say and whom we believe Jesus the Christ to be, and what we believe concerning his suffering and concerning His death.
What’s absolutely fascinating about this passage of Scripture is that immediately following Jesus’ declaration concerning His own suffering and His death, He would then call the people unto Him with His disciples as well and begin speaking unto them concerning an invitation that would be given unto them to themselves suffer, and to themselves take up their cross and deny themselves. We absolutely cannot miss and lose sight of the fact that directly linked to Jesus’ words and Jesus’ teaching concerning His suffering and concerning His death is an invitation given unto his disciples—not only to come after Him, but in that coming after Him denying themselves, taking up their cross and following Him. Jesus acknowledged the fact that men would in fact come after, and men would in fact follow Him, and yet directly linked to the reality of coming after and following Him would be a denial of self, and even a taking up of one’s cross. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to declare that whoever would seek to save their life would lose it, and whoever would lose their life for His sake and for the sake of the gospel, the same would save it. Immediately following this, Jesus would then transition to asking the people and His disciples what it would profit them if they gained the whole world, and yet lose their own soul. Jesus would then ask them what a man would give in exchange for his soul. Thus, that which Jesus the Christ was speaking unto the disciples and unto the people was not only a denial of self, and the taking up of one’s cross, but also of the danger of guarding and protecting their lives for their own selfish conceits, their own selfish pleasures, their own selfish wants and desires. We must recognize and understand Jesus’ words concerning self-denial and the taking up of the cross, for one cannot truly come after, and one cannot truly follow Jesus the Christ without denying themselves and taking up their cross. This is absolutely necessary and imperative for us to come to terms with, for we often associate Jesus’ suffering with a “get out of suffering free card,” and somehow a replacement for our need to suffer. The truth of the matter is that Jesus didn’t suffer so we wouldn’t have to, nor did Jesus take up the cross and be crucified upon it so we wouldn’t have to take up our own cross. Despite the fact that we would like to believe that Jesus suffered in our stead and suffered in our place, this simply isn’t the case, nor is this at all what is taught within the Scriptures. Scripture is explicitly clear when it states that any who wish and any who desire to come after Jesus must deny themselves, must take up their cross, and must follow Him. The ultimate goal and the ultimate desire is to follow Jesus, however, there can be no true following of Jesus without and apart from a self-denial, and apart from taking up our cross on a consistent and regular basis. There has been a powerful invitation which is directly linked to Jesus’ own declaration concerning His suffering and His death, for through Jesus’ suffering and through Jesus’ death we find a pattern and a model for our own suffering, and for our own taking up of the cross and allowing ourselves to be crucified with Him, and for being buried with Him.
What I would like to highlight and draw your attention to when reading this particular passage of Scripture is how what began with Jesus’ question of the disciples concerning whom they said and whom they believed Him to be would ultimately end and conclude with a declaration from His Heavenly Father before Peter, James and John while they were atop the mountain in the presence of Jesus. It was true that Jesus would ask the disciples whom men said that He was, and it was true that Jesus would then ask them who they said and who they believed Him to be—a question which would cause Simon called Peter to speak up and emphatically declare that He was the Christ the Son of the living God—and it is also true that just six days later we find Jesus taking the disciples Peter, James and John together with Him up into a high mountain where He would be transfigured before them and appear before them speaking with Moses and Elijah. It would be there upon the mountain where the disciples would be overshadowed by a bright cloud which would completely envelop them, and would hear an emphatic and thunderous declaration from the Father who is in heaven. When Peter saw that Jesus had been transfigured before their eyes, and when Peter saw that Jesus appeared together with Moses and Elijah talking and speaking, he declared that it was good for them to be there, and that it was good to build three tabernacles—one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. It was in direct respond to Peter’s worlds that a bright cloud enveloped and overshadowed them, and a voice broke the silence and emphatically declared that the one before them was His beloved Son. What’s more, is that not only did the voice from heaven emphatically declare that this was His beloved Son, but the voice from heaven also instructed them to hear and listen to Him. It was true that Moses gave the Law, and that much stock and emphasis was placed upon the Law and the commandments written therein, and it was true that Elijah not only represented the prophets, but was in fact perhaps the greatest prophet, however, the Heavenly Father spoke from heaven and instructed them to hear and listen to the Son. The one who was standing before them was greater than the Law, and the one before them was greater than the prophets, and they were called, they were invited, and they were instructed to hear and listen to Him. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which are found at the beginning and opening of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. Consider if you will the words which are found in the opening chapter of this New Testament epistle concerning Jesus the Christ, and concerning God speaking unto men:
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when he had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to me a Son? And again, when He bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Hebrews 11:1-1-9).