Then he began 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. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Gospel of Mark
Today’s message is the core of the Christian message and the core of the Gospel. This is probably the most important text in the whole Bible. As I said before, Mark is simply amazing. The Gospel Mark, is traditionally understood as the memoir of St. Peter. Mark was following around Peter and he recorded the Gospel message, remembering what Peter said. Ultimately, it is a very simple book.
It is a great book. Short, but it gets to the point. It is precise but clearly presents the Gospel. There are only 16 chapters, but it’s very clearly defined into 2 sections, both of 8 chapters. In the first eight chapters, he is talking about the identity of Jesus. In the second eight chapters, he is talking about the suffering of Jesus Christ. It is a very interesting combination. The identity of Christ and suffering of Christ. The passage that you read today was in Chapter 8:27-38, and that is the core. That is where the transition begins. Up to chapter eight, Mark is trying to establish who Jesus is. And from chapter eight onwards, he’s talking about the mystery of Jesus’ suffering. Why is this a mystery? Because it is a scandal. The Messiah, the hero, saviour. That Messiah suffered, was rejected, and died a cruel death. Can you accept that the Messiah was not powerful enough like Superman, who comes and saves humanity, but rather a Messiah who suffered, was rejected and died? Can we accept that kind of Messiah? Can that Messiah save us from all our troubles and our problems? People wondered, and we also wondered. Can that kind of Messiah save us?
We are going to explore what Mark is trying to communicate. The climax is the confession of St Peter. Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they replied “Elijah,” and others said as a prophet to the people.
Jesus, The Messiah
And then Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you see that I am?” And Peter who is always fast in responding. Peter came out and said, “You are the Messiah. You are the Messiah.” What is Peter doing? He’s nailing the point. The first eight chapters are talking about the identity of Jesus Christ, and from Peter’s mouth, comes “You are the Messiah!”. He did a great job in concluding and proclaiming who Jesus truly was. Seeing that Peter understood Jesus’ identity, Jesus started revealing the mystery of what would happen to him. And he said, 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. At the first part, it was about Jesus’ identity, but as soon as Peter said, “You are the Messiah!”, Jesus told all his disciples to be quiet. When he started talking about his suffering, rejection.
Peter did not like what Jesus said, so Peter took Jesus aside. Peter is about the same age as Jesus. Even though Peter was his disciple, Peter was also a friend. Peter actually got upset with what Jesus said. He just said, “You are the Messiah!” And Jesus talked about his suffering, rejection, and death. So Peter said to Jesus “Don’t say that. Don’t say that.” The scripture said Peter rebuked Jesus. So Peter would not have said “O Lord, please do not say that.” No. “Don’t say that. Don’t say things like that. You’re ruining it! You are ruining your reputation, you’re ruining what we are trying! Don’t say that.”
What did Peter not like? I wonder. What did Peter not like? Peter did not like defeat. To him, what Jesus said was similar to a defeated mentality. Suffering, rejection, and death? They all implied the defeat of the Messiah in Peter’s mind . In other words, “Jesus, you’re wrong, don’t say that.”. Peter wanted to correct Jesus. Jesus, in the same way, rebuked Peter and said: “Get behind me, Satan.” It was a strong word to his friend, his disciple. “Get behind me, Satan.” But Jesus had to use it because Peter’s thinking was everything what Jesus tried to fix. That’s why right after, Jesus said, “For you are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things.” It was not just an innocent mistake Peter made. Jesus wanted to go one way and Peter wanted to go a totally different way? Look at it very carefully. We’ve been meditating on these things. There is the identity of Jesus for the first eight chapters and Peter was correct. But in the second part when Jesus started talking about suffering, rejection, and death, Peter did not accept. Peter did not like it. When you look at these two, what are you reminded of? Are you remind of anything? Why would Jesus use the word “Satan”.?
Rejection, Death and Suffering
Do you remember the temptation story? When Satan tempted Jesus what did he say? If you are the son of God, then do the wonderful things such as turning stone into bread and jumping down from the temple. That’s what the son of God is. The first part mentions, if Jesus is the Messiah, then prove it. But Jesus did the exact opposite of that. “I will suffer, I will be rejected and I will die,” but Peter did not like that. Peter followed exactly what Satan was trying to do, and that’s when Jesus said, “Satan, get behind me.” To Jesus, suffering, rejection and death were not signals of defeat. Satan tells us we should try to avoid suffering, rejection, and death at all cost. That those are bad things. Suffering, not worth it. Rejection, why not be popular and be accepted by everyone? If everyone rejects you, then you are dead. Try to avoid rejection as much as possible! Death is not what we want!
But Jesus is saying, do not be afraid of suffering, do not be afraid of rejection and to not be afraid of death. Rather, you should embrace your suffering and that is the important truth. In verse 34: “if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” What does that mean? This is a very popular saying. We all know if anybody wants to become my followers, let him deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Take up their cross and follow me. We hear that so many times but we don’t understand what it means. Is Jesus saying, “If you to follow me, suffer?” Is that what Jesus is saying? “Take up your cross and follow me! You can not have a big house! If you want to follow me, suffer!” Is that Jesus is trying to say? “Take up your cross,” is what Jesus is saying. He’s not asking you to suffer. What he’s asking you is to not be afraid of suffering! That’s what Jesus is saying. Taking up your cross means to embrace your suffering. People seem to be scared of suffering, rejection and death. They are scared of them. “What if everybody leaves me? What if nobody likes me?What if I lose my job? What if my children suffer? What if I have a terminal disease and I faced death?”
People are scared of suffering and death, so they run away from these things. We need these things. They think they’re defeated. They try to save themselves from these things at all costs. You come to realize that you can never save yourself from these things. Suffering, rejection, death. The more you try to save yourselves, the more you become weak and the more you become scared. You tried to run away from these things, but they chase after you like a shadow. So you’ve lived your life for awhile forgetting about rejection, forgetting about death, and then turn around and it is right there waiting. Instead of disappearing from you, like a shadow it follows you around. You are trying to run away, but in the process, you’re losing yourself. You tried to run away from these things, but ultimately you will lose. Jesus said a very important truth: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel will save it.” If you try to save your life to avoid your suffering, you will lose the life they tried to save.
If you are willing to suffer for the sake of the Gospel and Jesus Christ and you lose your life, in the end you will save your life. You’re trying to save yourself from suffering, rejection and death, but you’ll lose. Remember, in your life, you’re trying to save yourself from suffering, rejection, and death, you will lose. You’ll be imprisoned in your own fear, anger and sadness. But if you say to yourself, turn around and face your suffering, rejection and death. “OK suffering, come! I am ready to suffer! I’m ready to be rejected! I’m ready to die!” All of a sudden, suffering, rejection and death, they no longer have a grip on us. They don’t have any power to control us anymore. But as long as you try to avoid them, then they will be continuously in power over you. When you turn around and face suffering, death and rejection, then they will lose power.
Face Your Fears
When I was teenager I was very small and there was this big guy. He was a bully. He scared the heck out of me. Everyday, I would go to school and as soon as he appears, I ran away. I don’t know how many days I did this but my life was miserable. One day, I was angry with myself. I said to myself, “I’m going to face this guy.” So he came and started hitting me and all that. I turned around and I faced him.
And then he was scared. He didn’t know where this courage came from. I just turned around and faced him. “You want to beat me, beat me.” I didn’t even have to fight and after that he left me alone. That is the truth. In your life. If you’re scared of suffering, rejection, and death and you constantly run away from them, you will die. You will become a slave to them. But when you face them, they will lose that power against you. You can face those things because with the God, we can persevere our suffering. With God, suffering will produce perseverance, character, and even hope. That is real power. With you alone, you can’t do that. But with God, suffering cannot destroy you. Suffering even produces hope. With God, we can face our rejection because Jesus said, “I will never abandon you.” Even when the world rejects you, God will always be with us and embrace us. With God, we can face our death because Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life, those who believe in me, even though they die, they will live with God.” We can now face suffering, rejection and death.
These three things will always be a part of your lives. When you graduate from high school, it will still be there. When you finish university, they will still be there. When you get married, they will still be there. Even when you’re 60, 70, 80 years old, suffering, rejection and death will be always part of your lives. We cannot run away from them and even if we wanted to do so, it will never leave us as long as we live. As we try to run away from them, you become weaker. Apart from suffering, don’t try to build your own joy and happiness. Apart from rejection, don’t try to build your identity. Apart from death, don’t try to build your life. Find joy in the midst of suffering. Find your identity in the midst of rejection. Find life in the midst of death. When you are ready to suffer, ready to be rejected, and ready to die, you’ll be amazed by that power and it will empowers you. And you’ll be free from fear, and you will have an abundant day. Today is March 1st. For Koreans, March 1st is a very important day. That’s when they all rose up against Japanese imperialism, when Korea was part of Japan. The people had no power, no weapons, no nothing. But thousands and thousands of people came out and stood up against the oppression, against Japan’s imperialism. They fought against it. How do they do it? They said, “If I perish, I perish.”
I’m ready to perish. If I perish, I perish. When Martin Luther King Jr. started his demonstrations, they had the same attitude. If I perish, I perish. And they were able to come out and fight against injustice. In your life, if you can say that, if I perish, I perish, you will live. But if you say, I’m scared of perishing, then you will die. That’s what the Christian Gospel is all about. If I perish, I perish. I’m not going to be a slave to money, and I’m not going to be slave of fame, I’m not going to be a slave to the comforts I enjoy. If I perish, I perish. Then your life will come alive.