Mark 8:31-9:1 (ESV)
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.” 9 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.”
Jesus taught his disciples that he would suffer and be rejected. He told them he would be killed, and yet rise again on the third day. He spoke openly and plainly about what was next. This must have confused the disciples, especially Peter. Just before this teaching, Peter boldly announced that Jesus was the Messiah. In Peter’s mind, the Messiah’s plan should have been to set up his messianic kingdom and rule in Israel as quickly as possible. Now Jesus told his disciples he would die. What? This made no sense! Peter wasn’t happy with any of this suffering and rejection talk coming from Jesus. So in his passion, Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him. The word “rebuke” literally means “to express strong disapproval.” Peter tried to warn Jesus about the error of his thinking and attempted to correct what he was saying. But Jesus saw behind the rebuke to the real power driving Peter’s push for Jesus to focus on self-preservation. Jesus turned the rebuke on 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.” Then Jesus gathered the disciples and the crowd around him and taught them that to follow him means to embrace a life of self-denial and suffering.
How bizarre to think that God allowed himself to be rejected by the men he created. As Christians, we must be ready to face rejection as well. We will run across people who say they are disciples of Jesus, but refuse to suffer for the sake of the gospel. Jesus clearly declared that all who desire to follow him must be willing to deny themselves and take up their crosses as well. What a strange concept! Our sinful nature hates the thought of rejection and suffering. Yet, Jesus became a human ultimately to suffer and die. Could it be that as we hide from suffering and run from rejection, we miss knowing an aspect of God that can only be discovered through pain and difficulty? That’s actually what Jesus taught those around him. He added, “Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” The road Jesus traveled was one of self-denial. Let’s make sure we are always open to whatever God is asking us to do, even if it doesn’t feel good in the moment.