by Sam E. Stone
For the past two months we have focused on the prophecies of Isaiah, offering comfort to God’s people in a difficult time. Now we will study the fulfillment of God’s promise, using excerpts from the Gospel of Mark. John the Baptist had prepared the way for Jesus (Mark 1:2, 3). God himself confirmed that he was the long-awaited Messiah (see Luke 4:21). Today’s lesson takes place during the final year of his earthly ministry.
Jesus had miraculously fed a crowd of 5,000, healed many more people, and debated with the Pharisees who had come up to Galilee from Jerusalem to “check him out.” He also healed a Phoenician woman, a dead man, and a blind man, then fed another 4,000 people.
Peter’s Confession/Mark 8:27-30
Jesus and his disciples went next to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. This town in northern Galilee was so named to distinguish it from the other Caesarea, an impressive city on the Mediterranean coast. Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” The miracles and teaching of Jesus had impacted the people wherever he went. Jesus asked what the disciples were hearing about him from the crowds.
The answers were diverse. “Some say John the Baptist.” Herod himself thought Jesus might be John, risen from the dead (Matthew 14:2). Others said, “One of the prophets.” Observers could find similarities between Jesus and various Old Testament prophets, both in message and manner. The Lord cut to the heart of things when he then asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Each person is responsible to answer that same question today.
“You are the Christ,” was Peter’s quick response. “You are the anointed one predicted in the Old Testament Scripture.” Matthew
notes that Peter added, “the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. He did not want to precipitate a crisis. He had more places to go and more people to teach before he would eventually offer his life on the cross.
Christ’s Crucifixion/Mark 8:31-33
The Son of Man must suffer many things. Jesus often used the title “Son of Man” when speaking about himself. The term suggests his role as the Messiah, which Peter had just confirmed when he called him “the Christ.” Jesus began to correct false ideas held by Jews in his day. They remembered the Old Testament prophecies that declared the Christ would be the Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6), but not those naming him also as the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13–53:12).
His suffering included rejection by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law. Together these groups comprised the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling body. After three days, however, Jesus would rise again. Earlier allusions to his death and resurrection (John 3:14; Matthew 12:38-40) seemingly had been missed by the apostles. This time Jesus spoke plainly.
Peter . . . began to rebuke him. Peter always spoke from his heart, often without stopping to think things through. He couldn’t bear to think of Jesus’ dying. He earnestly expressed his wish that this would never happen. Only moments before, Simon Peter had been
singled out for praise at his confession of Jesus as the Christ. Now Peter was singled out again—this time for correction. Although Peter meant well, what he said played directly into the devil’s hands. If Jesus were to follow Peter’s wish, he would fail to fulfill his mission in coming to earth.
Our Commitment/Mark 8:34-38
The believer must follow Jesus’ example of self-denial (Romans 8:36; 1 Corinthians 15:31). He must deny himself and take up his cross. The cross meant death in Jesus’ day. For us, it means death to sin (Galatians 2:20). Whoever wants to save his life will lose it. One may protect his temporal life, saving it from physical death, but that will result in eternal loss, if it means denying Jesus (see also Matthew 10:37-39).
Jesus then adds, “Some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” The church will begin soon (see Acts 2). J. W. McGarvey explains, “The expression refers to the kingdom which was organized and set in motion on the Pentecost which followed the resurrection of Jesus. It was set up with power, because three thousand souls were converted the first day, and many other gospel triumphs speedily followed.”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.