Day 3 Mark: Criminal King
Read Mark 8:27–36
In the first half of Mark, up to this point in chapter 8, we have seen Jesus perform a multitude of miracles. He is portrayed as the powerful king, he is well received, and the people are amazed. They say of him, “he has done all things well” (7:37). But then we come to a turning point in Mark 8, Peter’s profession that Jesus is the Christ.
After this point, as we see in Mark 8:31, Jesus begins to talk about his own suffering and death that is to come. No longer the conquering king, Jesus reveals that he will be treated as a criminal; the lion will become the sacrificial lamb.
His disciples are confused at this change. Peter even rebukes him, but Jesus makes it clear that this is the way it has to be.
He knew something the disciples did not yet understand. Freedom – true spiritual liberation – required a kingly Messiah who would himself be bound like a criminal so that his followers could be liberated in the only sense that ultimately matters. And not only would Jesus take up his cross, but his followers would also deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him (8:34).
Only the disciple who loses his life for Jesus’ sake, and thereby secures the only life worth having, truly understands who Jesus is and how God’s redemptive purposes in the world operate — not only through his Son, but also through his people.
Who do you say that Jesus is?
There are times in our Christian walk in which we see Jesus as the first half of Mark portrays him: triumphant, powerful, amazing in every way. There are also times in the Christian life in which Jesus doesn’t respond as we hope he would.
It is easier, perhaps, in the first season to say “you are the Christ” to his question “who do you say that I am?” But it is in the seasons of suffering, questions, and hardship, when we must remember the second half of Mark, the suffering saviour.
It is also in these seasons of hardship that Jesus is asking you: who do you say that I am?
Contrary to what all our instincts of self–preservation whisper to us every day, abandonment to Jesus is the safest investment we can make. Our only security is renunciation of all that this world holds secure.
Like the rich young ruler in Matthew, Jesus in Mark shows us that wholehearted surrender to his lordship is the best choice in any season. Mark shows us that the gospel of grace is not about what we can do for God, but about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
This is his surprising mission.
Questions for Reflection
● When you think of Jesus, do you tend to think of him more as a conqueror or sufferer on your behalf? How might an overemphasis on one aspect of his earthly ministry more than the other affect your faith?
● Who do you say that Jesus is? Spend some time reflecting on who you know Jesus to be and how you’ve experienced that in your life. Confess areas of doubt and ask the Lord to help you see him rightly.
Lord, thank you for being both the conquering king and the suffering Messiah on my behalf. I confess that sometimes I do not understand the way of the cross and how suffering and pain fits into your plan. Please help me to walk faithfully in surrender to you in every season, trusting that you are at work in your mission to transform your people to be more like you. Amen.
Dane Ortlund’s new book, Surprised by Jesus, is out now.
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