2019-6-30 The King and His Throne

The King and His Throne
Mark 8:27-9:1
June 30, 2019

And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

31 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. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” [1]

This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

Prayer of Illumination:

Prepare our hearts, O God, help us to receive. Break the hard and stony ground, help our unbelief. Plant Your Word down deep in us, cause it to bear fruit, open up our ears to hear, lead us in Your truth. Amen.

We are reaching the end of the first half of Mark’s gospel. This passage is the climax of the first half of Mark’s gospel account. Mark has told us that Jesus is the Christ (1:1). He has told us that the demons know who he is but Jesus has not permitted them to speak it (1:24, 34; 5:7). But the people do not know that Jesus is the Christ. In fact, they have been asking and wondering who Jesus is. His disciples have asked that question, the common people have asked that question. This passage is the first time that a human professes that Jesus is the Christ.

As we examine this passage, we’ll see the necessity of Christ going to the cross and the call for his disciples to bear their crosses.

The Cross of Christ

Jesus and the twelve are on their way to Caesarea Philippi. When we were last in the gospel of Mark, Jesus was in the region of Tyre. He was in modern Lebanon. And after testing the faith of a woman and healing her daughter, he returned to ministering around the Sea of Galilee. He bounced around between the eastern and western side of the Sea teaching and healing. He restored hearing to a deaf man, he fed 4,000 people, he taught his disciples to be weary of the teaching of the Pharisees, and he gave sight to a blind man. And now they are on their way to Caesarea Philippi. Caesarea Philippi was about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, only a few miles away from the Syrian border.

And as they are walking, Jesus poses a question to his disciples. He asks them, “Who do people say that I am?” He has been ministering for some time. Maybe over a year. People undoubtedly have opinions as to who he is. And Jesus wants to know.

The disciples respond, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” That is the same proposed group as back in chapter 6. Remember, Herod had killed John the Baptist. Then he hears about another teacher in Galilee who says similar things and does miracles. When it reaches Herod’s court people say, “‘He is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’” (Mark 6:15-16) A teacher, a holy man, and a prophet.

If you were to ask people today who Jesus is and you would probably get a similar response. They might say, “Jesus was a good moral teacher, like Buddha, Confucius, or Mohammed”. They might say he’s a holy man like the Dalai Lama. Or they might say he was just another prophet in a long line of prophets.

Jesus then turns to his disciples and asks them who they think that he is. And Peter, being the spokesman for the twelve, responds, “You are the Christ”. Peter professes that Jesus is the Christ. He is saying that Jesus is the one who is anointed to redeem God’s people; that he is the Messiah. Peter is saying that Jesus is the promised king of old.

What Peter means is this. He means, “The Messiah would be the perfect king chosen by God from eternity, through whom God would first deliver Israel from its enemies and then cause Israel to live in peace and tranquillity thereafter.”.[2] That is how Peter understands the Christ to function.

And immediately after that profession, Jesus commands the disciples not to tell anyone. He instructs them not to tell others that he is the Christ. Why? Rome would not have tolerated someone claiming to be the truth king of Israel. That would have been a quick way to find out just how well trained the Roman army was. They couldn’t and they wouldn’t tolerate any rival claims to the throne. So Jesus commands his disciples not to tell anyone that he is the Christ.

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. 32 And he said this plainly.

Jesus began to teach them something they had never heard of. Something they never considered. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer. Now don’t be thrown by his use of the phrase “Son of Man”. That is Jesus’ preferred designation for who he is. He isn’t contradicting Peter’s profession that he is the Christ. He’s connecting the Christ with Son of Man from Daniel 7 and with the suffering servant in Isaiah. All of those prophecies are speaking about the same person, Jesus.

Jesus the Christ is beginning to teach them that he must suffer many things. He is making as clear as possible that the opposition he has faced from the religious leaders is not an abnormality. He is not saying, “Give them some time and they’ll get on board”. No. He’s saying very clearly that the religious leaders, the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, will reject him. They will reject his teaching, they will reject him.

Their rejection of Jesus will ultimately lead to his death. The religious leaders will not just take offense at what he says or who he spends his time with. They will kill him. In over a year, the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes will crucify Jesus. They will nail him to a cross for who he is and what he has done. This is humanity at its very best. These are the ones who know God’s word. These are the most moral people. These are the ones waiting for the Christ. And they reject and kill him.

But not all is lost. On the third day, Jesus will rise again. Death will not be able to keep him. Jesus will defeat death by dying. And the proof of that, the proof of his redeeming work, is his resurrection.

Now notice, Jesus says must. He doesn’t say “the Son of Man might suffer”. He doesn’t even say “the Son of Man will suffer”. He says “the Son of Man must suffer”. Must is an imperative. Must is a necessity.

What this teaches us is that Jesus going to the cross where he suffered extreme agony, was humiliated, and killed was no accident. Jesus going to the cross was not Plan B. Jesus suffering many things, including rejection by those he came to save, the extreme agony, humiliation, and death was Plan A. Do you see? The plan, even before creation existed, was that God decided to redeem his Church through Jesus’ death and resurrection and that the Holy Spirit would apply that redemption to the elect.

The Apostle Paul teaches us the same thing in Ephesians 1 when he writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”[3]

The plan from all eternity was that God would glorify himself and magnify his grace in justice. He would do that by redeeming his elect, his Church through the person and work of Jesus the Christ on the cross. God the Spirit would then apply that redemption to each believer when they came to faith.[4] That was the plan. And that is why Jesus must suffer many things.

And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Peter, as the leader of the disciples, took Jesus aside and began to rebuke. Can you imagine what he was feeling? For his entire life, he had heard that the Christ would redeem Israel; that he would be victorious. And now he is hearing that the Christ must suffer many things, rejection, humiliation, and death. That certainly upset him. So he took his master aside and began to rebuke. I can imagine that Peter took him away from the other disciples and said, “Jesus, you’re the Christ. The Christ doesn’t suffer. The Christ doesn’t get killed. The Christ redeems Israel. Get it together”.

As they were speaking, the other eleven disciples crept closer so as to support Peter. And when Jesus saw that they were listening and agreeing with Peter, Jesus rebuked him. He said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” Get behind me could be understood as “get out of my sight”.

And then he calls Peter Satan. Why would he do that? Peter is opposing the will of God, which is to redeem his Church, through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Even though Peter’s intentions are good, they are opposed to the things of God. And anything that is opposed to God is in league with Satan. So Jesus corrects him. He will not abandon the plan even if one of his closest friends doesn’t think that is how it should happen.

So anytime we do something that is not in line with the Word of God, we are working in league with Satan. Whenever we say something that is contradictory to the way of Christ, we are in league with Satan. We might have good intentions, Peter almost certainly did. But if those good intentions are not in line with God’s plan of redemption then they are Satanic. If those good intentions are not grounded firmly in the Word of God then they are Satanic. What is that old saying? The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

We’ve seen that it was necessary for Christ to go to the cross. Now, we’ll see that his disciples are called to bear crosses themselves.

The Call to Bear Our Crosses

After rebuking his disciples, Jesus gathers a crowd around him and he begins to teach them. He say, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

In these verses, Jesus teaches us three things about being his disciple. Disciples of Jesus are to deny themselves, they are to willingly bear their crosses, and they are to publicly profess Christ.

John Calvin has this to say about self-denial. He writes, “This self-denial is very extensive, and implies that we ought to give up our natural inclinations, and part with all the affections of the flesh, and thus give our consent to be reduced to nothing, provided that God lives and reigns in us.”[5] As disciples of Jesus we are to give up our natural, sinful inclinations and instead live for God.

That is not easy in a culture where self-gratification and hedonism run rampant. There is a website called Ashley Madison. It made headlines a few years ago when hackers threatened to reveal the identities of those who subscribed to their website. Maybe you’re wondering, “Why does it matter if those hackers reveal people who have paid for the services of that website?” Ashley Madison is a website that is built and designed to help people have affairs. And their tag was “life is short, have an affair”.

We live in a culture that encourages us to given in to our desires and wants. We see it most definitely in how our culture treats sex, sexuality, and marriage. But we see it in other areas too. We see it in how our culture treats work and material possessions. There’s that expression keeping up with the Joneses. It sums up this idea that our culture encourages us to give in to our desire to have more and more material possessions and the way we go about doing that is by working 60-70 hours each week. That’s why our culture encourages credit card usage. We live in a culture that encourages us to given in to our desires and wants.

But as disciples of Jesus we are to live lives of self-denial. We are not to live lives of self-gratification and hedonism. We are to live lives that reflect the values and desires of Jesus our lord and savior. That means that we seek the good of others even if it costs us.  That means we are to build up our neighbors and our communities even if it means we get poured out. We are to live chaste and holy lives denying our sinful desires. That is the first thing these verses teach us, that we are to live lives of self-denial.

Secondly, this teaches that as disciples of Jesus we are to willingly bear our crosses. Sometimes we use that phrase to describe having a difficult mother-in-law or a hard boss. We use that phrase to hardships in our lives. But that’s not what Jesus means. What he means is that as his disciples, we need to be willing to die for him.

There are some people out there who teach that if you suffer then it is because you do not have enough faith. People like Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, Benny Hinn, and Kenneth Copeland all teach that suffering is a result of a lack of faith.

But what does Jesus say? Jesus calls his disciples to willingly bear their crosses. He is calling us to suffer for following him. He is calling us to willingly die for him and his gospel.

When Mark wrote his gospel, Christians were being crucified. Nero, the emperor, was sadistic. He would crucify Christians and hang their bodies along the Appian Way so that anyone who came into Rome would know what would happen to Christians.

While we don’t face persecution like Christians did in the first few centuries here, our brothers and sisters across the globe do. Our brothers and sisters in places like North Korea, China, India, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and many other places take their lives into their hands by following Christ. They pick up their cross in following Jesus.

While we may not be persecuted or killed for being a disciple of Jesus, we will certainly face repercussions for it. Will we willingly bear those repercussions? Will we joyfully follow Jesus even if no longer has any public benefits? Will we be so bold as to declare ourselves disciples when there might be consequences for being Christian? If we are to truly be disciples of Jesus, we are called to willingly bear our crosses just as Jesus did.

Thirdly, this teaches us that disciples publicly profess Jesus. We cannot be secret Christians. We cannot claim to be disciples but never profess our love for Jesus. When someone joins the church, whether they are joining due to transfer, confirmation, or they are joining for the first time we require that they make a profession of faith during our public worship service. Being a disciple of Jesus means that we publicly profess our devotion to him.

In the late second century, Christianity was still illegal in the Roman Empire. So Christians had to meet in secret. One of the places where Christianity had taken root was in modern day Algeria. As the Emperor cracked down on Christianity, churches were raided and Christians were taken into prison. One of those taken into prison was a woman named Perpetua. While she was in prison, Perpetua’s father tried to convince her to recant her faith. She wouldn’t. She was adamant that she would continue to profess Jesus as the Christ and that she would face death instead of deny him. She was able to do that because she understood the necessity of Jesus going to the cross to redeem the Church, of which she was a part of. That enabled her to go to the cross willingly.

Jesus is the Christ. And it was the plan from all eternity for him to suffer many things, including death on the cross to redeem his church. As his disciples we are to bear our crosses, denying ourselves, and professing our devotion to Jesus.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 8:27–9:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 250). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 1:3–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Berkhof, L. (1938). Systematic theology (pp. 119–120). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co.

[5] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 2, pp. 303–304). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.