4 March 2012

Mark 8:31-38

"Then he begain to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again." (v. 31)


The term "Son of Man" is Jesus' favourite title for himself and is used only by him in the Gospel of Mark. It is a term rich in meaning - at its most straightforward it simply means a man, a human born from humans. Yet in Daniel 7:13, this same phrase, translated as "one like a human being", was used by the writer to describe the one chosen, presented to God and given dominion and kingship for ever. The original Jewish listeners and readers would have been clearly aware of this meaning.

The contrast between the meaning of "Son of Man", as it was understood, and Jesus' open prediction of his suffering, rejection and death is stark and it seems to drive Peter's rebuke (verse 32). In return Jesus delivers a stinging line to Peter, describing him as Satan (verse 33). Peter sees things from a human viewpoint and objective: God's viewpoint and objective are very different. To stand in the way of the kingdom of God is to align one's self with God's opponents.

Jesus calls anyone who would be a follower not to oppose the way of suffering, but to follow in this very way. Crucifixion was considered the most terrible way of execution not only because of its suffering, but also due to the shame and humiliation for the victim, their family, friends and associates. Jesus calls his followers in to this way for him and for the sake of the gospel, that is the good news about God's loving relationship with human beings.

This passage ends with a reference to the end of the present time, the second coming of the Son of Man and judgement, at some time in the future. Those who avoid the way of suffering, shame and humiliation with the Son of Man in the present, will cause him to be ashamed of them at that time.

To Ponder

In some countries denial and suffering is very much a part of Christian life, either through devotional practice or persecution. What does denial and suffering for the sake of Christ, mean for you in your daily life?

What things do you do personally that may oppose God's plans? How can you change those things and align yourself with God?

Bible notes author

Dr Andy Dye

Andy Dye is a mission partner for the Methodist Church in Britain serving with the Methodist Church in Grenada, South Caribbean. He has a background in science, science teaching and mission work.