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Mark XV: "You are the Christ" - Mark 8:27-9:13

Who is Jesus? Everybody’s been asking, and all sorts of answers have been given. Now Jesus is the one who asks, and the answer changes everything. In 8:29, Peter speaks for the disciples to identify Jesus as the Christ, and in 9:7, God speaks from the glory cloud to identify Jesus as His beloved Son. His ministry in these first eight chapters of Mark has manifested His identity; and now the Messiah must carry out His mission.

The first set of responses that Jesus gets identifies Jesus as a prophet, and this shows that Israel sees men like trees walking. They see something correct about Jesus, but they don’t see clearly. And so Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter speaks for the whole group and answers that Jesus is more than a prophet; Jesus is the Christ, God’s chosen Messiah. God has opened the disciples’ eyes to see clearly.

The disciples have seen that Jesus is the Christ, but in the next section, we see that while they know who the Christ is, they don’t understand what the Christ must do. As soon as Jesus starts to explain how the Christ must suffer, be rejected and then killed, and then after three days rise again, Peter takes him aside in an oxymoronic effort to correct the Christ. Jesus rebukes this demonic error, because if Jesus listens to Peter, Satan wins. God and men have a different understanding of what the problem is, and so they have a completely opposite view of what the solution must be: a Christ who kills his enemies versus a Christ who dies for them.

Jesus then calls the crowd together to address this misunderstanding and explains discipleship in stark terms: following Jesus means denying yourself and taking up your cross. Following Jesus means giving over control of your life to Him, and being willing to gladly die at His Word. And while following Jesus with a cross on your back might cost you everything, it’s the only life that makes any sense in light of eternity. Without the cross, you might gain the whole world, but the world is not worth your soul. Jesus is.

Then in Mark 9, Jesus gives a hint as to why enduring suffering and death is the way of wisdom: at that moment in history, the kingdom of God was breaking into the world, and some of those standing there would see it come in power before they died! And six days later, Peter, James, and John were given the world’s first glimpse of the coming glory of Christ and His kingdom.

For Mark, the Transfiguration does three things: first, it confirms the truth of the confession: Jesus is the Christ! Second, when God speaks from the cloud, He tells the disciples to listen to Jesus, confirming the truth of what Jesus had said about the Christ’s mission over against Peter’s rebuke. Third, the glory that the disciples see establishes that Jesus’ death is not the unavoidable consequence of a small town prophet with delusions of grandeur trying to take over the throne. The disciples see in the transfigured Jesus a person of such power and glory that if He wanted to take the throne by the sheer force of His unveiled majesty, He could have. He’s not dying because Herod or the Pharisees or Rome are stronger or more glorious. Something else is going on.

As with Moses overcoming Pharoah, and Elijah taking on King Ahab, God’s power in Jesus is hiding under weakness. The big difference, though, is that Moses lived while Pharoah drowned, and Ahab was humbled before Elijah. Both Moses and Elijah were famous for not dying! So what the disciples couldn’t understand was not weakness overcoming strength, but the idea of the dead triumphing over the living.

By announcing His death, Jesus is not simply the next prophet in the weak vs. strong pattern. Since He was taking on a stronger enemy than an earthly king, His kingdom must be established through an even greater weakness, the weakness of death on a cross. And this is why the answers that people gave about Jesus being a prophet weren’t enough: God’s prophets win and stay alive! But God had something different planned for His Christ, something that would lead to an even greater victory for His Beloved Son.

In this text, we have seen from Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ. We have heard that the way of the Christ is the way of the cross. And we have learned that confessing Christ and carrying His cross is the way to beholding and even sharing in the glory of Christ. So let us continue to confess our faith and take up our cross until we meet Him in glory.

Posted on Friday, June 29, 2018 by CJ Bowen