Guest Post: Mark Eight by Mark Strauss

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Dr. Mark Strauss has provided his reflections on Mark's eighth chapter.

Mark L. Strauss (Ph.D., Aberdeen) is professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary San Diego, where he has served since 1993. He is the author or coauthor of various books, including commentaries on Mark’s Gospel in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary Series (2014) and Expositors Bible Commentary (2010); How to Read the Bible in Changing Times (Baker, 2011); Four Portraits, One Jesus (Zondervan, 2007), and The Essential Bible Companion (with John Walton; 2006).  He is New Testament editor of the Expanded Bible (Thomas Nelson) and the Teach the Text Commentary Series (Baker).  He also serves as Vice Chair of the Committee for Bible Translation for the New International Version and as an associate editor for the NIV Study Bible. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Institute for Biblical Studies and the Evangelical Theological Society.

Mark has a heart for ministry and preaches and teaches regularly at churches, conferences and college campuses. He lives in San Diego with his wonderful wife Roxanne, a marriage and family therapist, and three delightful children, two in college, one in high school.

You are the Messiah

Mark chapter 8 is the center point and key transitional chapter for the whole of Mark’s Gospel. It is the axis upon which the whole Gospel turns.  Throughout chapter 1–8 Jesus reveals his authority as Messiah and Son of God. He heals the sick, casts out demons, calms the sea, raises the dead, and feeds the multitudes.  His actions produce awe and amazement in the crowds, but opposition and hostility from the religious leaders. The crush of the crowds means there’s hardly time to eat or sleep, so in Mark 8 Jesus takes his disciples for some R & R to the beautiful region around Caesarea Philippi, north of Galilee. On the way, he asks them a telling question, “Who do people say that I am?”  They answer with some popular views about Jesus: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”  Jesus then asks, “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers for the Twelve, “You are the Messiah.”  (Mark 8:27–29; all quotes from NIV)

Peter gets it right! Jesus’ remarkable authority has proven that he is the long awaited Savior, promised in Scripture.  He is the One!  

Yet Jesus then shocks his disciples by predicting the suffering role of the Messiah:

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:32)

Peter lacks a full understanding

Peter is appalled by this defeatist attitude and rebukes Jesus. But Jesus turns around and rebukes him right back: “Get behind me, Satan!...You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Mark 8:33). In one sense Peter gets it right. He recognizes that Jesus is God’s mighty Messiah, who will bring salvation. But he doesn’t realize that the Messiah’s role will be to suffer and die. Jesus will bring salvation not by conquering the Roman legions, but by sacrificing himself as an atoning sacrifice for sins, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  The whole second half of Mark’s Gospel will describe the “way of the cross,” as Jesus heads to Jerusalem to accomplish this messianic task.

Peter had his own vision of what the Messiah was to be.  He wanted a king who would defeat Israel’s oppressors and bring victory, glory, security, and dominance to Israel.  Jesus had a greater vision. He was here to reverse the results of the fall and defeat Satan, sin and death—humanity’s greatest enemies.

Getting a greater vision for the world

We are often like Peter.  We want a god who will satisfy what we perceive as our needs—happiness, health, prosperity, comfort and security. Yet while God promises us eternal health and happiness, the path to this glory is one of sacrifice and suffering. To be Jesus’ disciple means to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and to follow him (Mark 8:34). The message of Mark’s Gospel is that following Jesus means getting a greater vision for the world than our personal success or happiness. It means submitting to God’s kingdom and seeking his purposes. That purpose is to share the message of reconciliation with a lost world—that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:18-19). That is a message worth passing on; and one worth dying for.