"Walking the Way Nobody Wants to Go" Bible Study on Mark 8:31-38
February 25, 2021, 10:22 AM

Dear Members & Friends:

I invite you to read the following passage from Mark 8:31-38 (Common English Bible).

31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” 32 He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. 33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”

34 After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 35 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. 36 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? 37 What will people give in exchange for their lives? 38 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

"Then Jesus began to teach his disciples . . . (Mark 8:31).  And what a lesson Jesus has to teach them.  Perhaps we ought to say, at the beginning of our encounter with this Sunday's Gospel, that the truth that Jesus embodies is not innate.  We aren't born with the knowledge that Jesus shares with his disciples and us.  Nobody is born knowing who God really is.  So, Jesus must teach us and show us.  This truth must be revealed.

The great hope of many Jews at the time of Jesus and his earthly ministry was for a God-anointed Messiah who would come and at last give Israel freedom from the Roman overlords.  Thus far in the Gospel of Mark, we have witnessed Jesus performing many wonders.  Enthusiastic crowds have been attracted to him, so it is only natural that of Jesus' followers thought him to be the long-promised Messiah.

What is not natural or in any way expected is the dismaying word that they, and we, hear Jesus speak in this Sunday's Gospel.  Jesus says that, contrary to all their hopes and expectations, he would undergo suffering, be rejected by the religious leaders, and killed.

Peter the impetuous one, God bless him, speaks for all of us in taking hold of Jesus, "scolding him," and correcting him (Mark 8:32).  Surely Peter was thinking, "Are you out of your mind?  Nothing anybody believes about the Messiah suggests that the Messiah will be anything but a powerful, triumphant, political and military figure."  Suffering?  Death?  It's unthinkable.

Jesus turns and rebukes Peter, telling Peter that he is a victim of purely "human thinking."  So many times, people say things about others based on their limited view of a situation or their immediate needs to desires -- often a desire to be in control of a situation or a group.

As if this were not jolt enough, Jesus shocks them more deeply by telling them that his way of the cross may well be their future too.  All who would follow Jesus must "deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me."  Jesus' unexpected, even offensive talk continues as he declares, "To save your life you must lose it."  We may lose our lives for Jesus' sake.

You can tell what Jesus says is quite a show and quite counter to any of their expectations because Jesus repeats what he says a second time.  The disciples are even more troubled, but they are afraid to ask Jesus to repeat or clarify what he means (see Mark 9:32).  Maybe they understood all too well what Jesus had said, and they were afraid that he would say it again!

Still, on their way to Jerusalem (and we know full well where this journey will end), Jesus repeats a third time the explicit statement of his impending death, this time with an even more grim and graphic description.  He will be condemned and handed over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him, but he will rise again (Mark 10:33-34).  These predictions occur over a three-day period, perhaps hinting toward another shocking and terrible three days for the disciples after the crucifixion of Jesus.

If anybody thinks that being a disciple of Jesus means that you are following Jesus because you clearly understand Jesus, this Sunday's Gospel challenges such an assumption.  The Gospel of Mark constantly portrays the first followers of Jesus as confused, uncomprehending, and baffled by Jesus, and never more so than when Jesus directly, clearly told them about his future and their future as well.  Jesus was not the kind of Messiah they expected; Jesus is not the kind of Messiah we expected.

It's only natural for us to want to be prosperous, capable, successful, and in control.  Therefore, it's only natural for us to misconstrue Jesus as a means of getting what it is we want, a path to being the sort of people we would like to be.  But this Sunday's Gospel shows Jesus leading us down a very different path.  It's not natural.

Tell me, are you still willing to walk with Jesus, walking a way nobody wants to go?

Yours in the Journey With Jesus,

Pastor Greg Rupright


03-07-2021 at 8:42 AM
Glenda Mitter
Thank you Pat. I will follow also.
02-27-2021 at 8:56 PM
Pat May
It’s a tough “walk,” but , if the Lord leads, I’ll surely try to follow.
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