Formations 03.21.2021: A Suffering Messiah?

Mark 8:22-38

“You keep using that word,” Inigo Montoya tells Vizzini in the 1987 comedy The Princess Bride. “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

In Mark 8, Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah. Immediately, Jesus charges the disciples not to tell anyone. Instead, he begins to explain the fate that awaits him: suffering, rejection, death…and resurrection.

Peter can’t accept this, however. To him, the idea that the Messiah could ever suffer such weakness and degradation is (with apologies to Señor Montoya) inconceivable. So he rebukes Jesus. Can you imagine? Peter has followed Jesus since Jesus called him from his life as a Galilean fisherman. He is the leader of the Twelve, their unofficial spokesman in all four Gospels. By this point in the story, he had preached, healed, and cast out evil spirits in Jesus’ name.

But this hard saying was a step too far. Peter couldn’t conceive of a Messiah who suffers. Those were two words that didn’t even belong in the same sentence.

Peter’s rebuke sets the stage for Jesus to deliver a sobering message about the nature of discipleship: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (v. 34).

Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah. This is rightly looked upon as a high point of the Gospel. But Peter’s concept of Messiah doesn’t line up with Jesus’ life and ministry. He keeps using that word…but Jesus would take issue with the definition he has placed upon it.

The themes of rejection and opposition come center-stage in this passage. Not only will Jesus suffer because of his faithfulness to God’s will, but there is also a cross ready for any who would follow him.

Discussion

• Do you think Christian preachers and teachers gloss over Jesus’ call to join him in his suffering? Why or why not?
• What might taking up the cross mean for believers today?
• Does our context of religious liberty make following Jesus easier or more difficult? Explain.
• What does it mean to be “ashamed” of Jesus (v. 38)? In what sense might Peter have been ashamed of Jesus?
• How should we measure the cost of following Jesus?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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