The passage for today is Mark 8:31–38. This lesson contrasts two orientations to life. One approach to life involves ignoring the cross and living for yourself. This is the self willed person that isn’t concerned with submitting to God’s will. The other approach involves denying self and becoming consumed with what interests God. Jesus is personally challenging his disciples to build the character quality of submissiveness toward God and his will for their lives. Luke 14:27 says, “whoever will not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Jesus is saying you have to carry your cross to become a disciple but that you cannot presently be one of my disciples if your life is marked by submission to the Lordship of Christ. Jesus isn’t describing the perfection of our lives but it’s primary direction.
Historical Background: coming immediately after Peter’s confession, Matthew 16:16, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20, this prophecy was apparently triggered by the confession. If it had come earlier, the 12 would’ve been unable to receive it without being shaken in their conviction about him. This is Jesus first open prediction of the events which were now about one year away, earlier he had referred to them as they are in the old terminology, John 2:19. Peter was unwilling to except such a revelation because he was now certain about Jesus’ messiahship, Matthew 16:22, Mark 8:32. Peter was interested in the establishment of Christ’s earthly theocratic kingdom. Jesus understood this was the time to to be the slaughtered lamb rather than the reigning lion. Later in Peter’s letter he would put the pieces of the eschatological puzzle together when he wrote, “as he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.” Peters misguided seal drew the Lord’s rebuke and created an occasion for Jesus to address the issue of true followership.
The Command: Matthew 11:29 (take, learn), Matthew 16:24 (deny, take up, follow), Mark 8:34 (deny, take up, follow), Luke 9:23 (deny, take up, follow), John 12:26 (let him follow), John 21:22 (follow). 1 Corinthians 15:31.
1. According to Mark 8:31, was Jesus and unsuspecting victim at his trial and execution? Jesus was not an unsuspecting victim at his trial and crucifixion, he knew all the details well ahead of time.
2. How does Peter respond to this short lesson of Christ upcoming passion? (Mark 8:32). Peter rebukes Jesus. Peter was unable to reconcile such information with his newly affirmed belief in Christ’s messianic identity. He basically tries to straighten Jesus out, which if he did, would’ve accomplished Satan’s goals. The verb, “took him aside,” pictures Peter confidently drawing Jesus aside in order to rebuke him for his own good. Peter acted with an air of conscious superiority. The word translated “rebuke” is the same one used for silencing of the demons, Mark 1:25, 3:12.
3. What emphatic words did Peter used to rebuke Jesus? (Matthew 16:22). Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him saying, God forbid it Lord! This will never happen to you. God forbid translates a Hebrew colloquialism as literally meant “gracious to you, or merciful to you,” and was understood to mean something such as “God be gracious to you or may God in his mercy spare you this.” The word “never” in the phrase, “this shall never happen to you,” is a double negative in the Greek. It is an emphatic denial or prohibition. It could literally be translated, “this shall never, no never happen to you.”
4. Why did Jesus rebuked Peter in the presence of the other disciples? (Mark 8:33). Although Peter formulated the statement, it probably represented the view of the other disciples who needed to be reviewed also.
5. What did Jesus command Peter to do? (Mark 8:33). “Get behind me, Satan.” This command is similar to that given Satan in the wilderness temptation, Matthew 4:10, “begone, Satan,” but here Peter isn’t commanded to leave but rank himself behind Jesus. Peter acted with such an air of superiority, Jesus had to remind Peter who was to follow. The best teachers are students and the best leaders are followers. Jesus recognized the satanic opposition in Peter. Peter was opposing divine will. Peter is repute for being an agent of Satan.
6. What had Peter become with this mindset? (Matthew 16:23). According to this verse “you are a stumbling block to me, for you are not setting your mind on God’s interest, but man’s.” Peter was a stumbling block because his thought life was dominated by self-centered interests rather than God’s interests. “Stumbling block” is from the word originally used of an animal trap, in particular the part for the bait was placed. The term eventually became to be used of luring a person into captivity or destruction. Satan was using Peter to set a trap for Jesus.
7. Why does Jesus call Peter Satan? (Mark 8:33). In Peter’s effort to dissuade Jesus from the cross, he recognized a repetition of the wilderness temptation, Peter had made himself an unwilling agent of Satan. Jesus does not identify Peter with the devil but names him as a real adversary to God’s purpose and plan.
8. Why does Jesus teach the crowd about cross bearing after rebuking Peter? (Mark 8:34). Peter had just been reminded that Jesus must always submit to the Father’s will, now through the picture of cross bearing Jesus stresses that this must also be true of those who follow after him. So the issue of submission to God or obedience was the occasion for the teaching on cross bearing.
9. What three things are required of those who have become disciples of Jesus? (Mark 8:34). Jesus gives three commands, he must deny himself (aorist imperative), and take up his cross (aorist imperative), and follow me (present imperative).
10. What does the phrase “deny himself” mean? (Mark 8:34). It does not refer to some monastic vow or forgoing certain foods during Lent. It refers to the duty of every disciple, to turn away from the idolatry of self-centeredness and to deal with one’s inherent sin nature. The opposite of denying self is living for self. The disciple of Christ must no longer make his own interests and desires the supreme concern of his life. Obedience to the aorist imperative involves a fundamental reorientation of one’s life; It is urgent and we must do it now. It involves saying “yes” to God and “no” to self. Our culture tells us to except ourselves, to be ourselves, to be good to ourselves. Self is what caused Peter to set his mind on man’s interests rather than God’s interests. One cannot follow Jesus if he’s going the opposite way. To deny oneself is incomplete. At best it leave one in a neutral state, whereas following is an active and positive state. This calls for a second requirement. Take up on the cross is the positive action needed after one has denied himself.
11. What does it mean to take up your cross? (Mark 8:34). It does not prefer to putting up with some disappointment, sickness, or tragic situation in our lives. “Well I guess that’s just across I’ll have to bear in this life.” Taking up one’s cross involves a willingness to suffer and die for Christ, but it is much more than that. It is a willingness to live daily for him. Taking up one’s cross is the positive action needed after one has denied himself.
12. How was Jesus carrying the cross beams to Calvary associated with submission? (Matthew 26:39, 42, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42, John 19:17, Romans 5:19, Philippians 2:8, Hebrews 5:8, 12:4). Jesus’ struggle in Gethsemane was whether to place his own interests before the plan and program of God. Self-interest said, “avoid the pain of the cross at all cost.” But Jesus fervently agonized in prayer and resisted temptation to point that his sweat became like drops of blood, Luke 22:44. Jesus yielded to the Father’s will when he said, “not my will but yours be done,” Luke 22:42. Philippians 2:8 summarizes the entire process well, “being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”
13. How often should we take up his cross? (Luke 9:23). The word in this verse is “daily.” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:31 that he “dies daily.” Every day Paul died to his own selfish desires and interests in order to advance the cause of Christ. What motivated him to die daily was the reality of the resurrection. There is life after death and one day all believers will stand at the judgment seat of Christ to give an account for whether they lived their lives for themselves or for Christ.
14. What does Jesus say is true of those who don’t take up his cross? (Matthew 10:38). The verse says that if we don’t take up the cross and follow him, we are not worthy of him. The adjective “not worthy” describes the believer who doesn’t live a life of submission. This kind a believer is not fit to be Jesus’ disciple and is not due a reward. The adjective is a word that expresses “weight, value, and worth.”
15. What four consequences do people experience when they choose not to follow Jesus? (Mark 8:35–38). These verses contrast the personal consequences of the individual who decides to obey these three commands and he who does not. The word “for” introduces four different personal consequences that people experience when they try to save their lives, or preserve their personal interests. There is a strong paradox here. Those who lose their soul, (psyche), weather in actual martyrdom or disciplined self-denial and submission, will find it in the age to come. Those who find it now by living for themselves and refusing to submit to the commands of Christ lose it in the age to come, Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, 17:33.
The historical meaning of cross bearing: The disciples in this passage are commanded to take up their cross. This is not a reference to cross dying but to cross bearing or carrying. We know it is not connected with dying or martyrdom because Luke 9:23 requires that we take up our cross daily. The phrase “take up his cross” is a figure of speech derived from the Roman custom that required a man convicted of rebellion against Rome’s sovereignty to carry the cross beam to his place of execution. As he was paraded through the streets, he was made to wear a sign which said that he had been a rebel. This practice was not designed to cause a more horrible death but the whole proceeding was designed above all as a deterrent. Requiring the condemned man to carry his cross displayed publicly his submission to the authority against which he previously had rebelled. Now, as all could see, he was submissive. To take up his cross was a figure of speech easily understood by anyone in the Roman empire to mean, “to submit to the authority against which one had previously rebelled.”
1. What are some of the things that you have exchanged in the past?
2. Have you ever been involved in a relationship that became a hindrance or a stumbling block to your spiritual progress?
3. What is the one thing in your life that you have a tough time Buellton to God and his will? Prayerfully surrender it. Confess this to your small group accountability partner and ask him or her to hold you accountable and you’ll bring it to Christ Lordship.
4. As the condemned criminal would carry his cross through the Roman city, in what ways do you display that you are in submission to God rule in your life before an unbelieving world?
Additional Commentary: 1
Mark 8:31 / After three days: This is the literal meaning of the Greek phrase which can mean simply “after a short time.” The parallels in Matthew 16:21 and Luke 9:22 use the phrase “on the third day,” reflecting the Christian tradition that Jesus’ resurrection took place on the third day after his crucifixion (e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:4).
Mark 8:31 / Rise again: What is meant is that God will raise Jesus from death, and the parallels in Matt. 16:21; Luke 9:22 use a Greek word that makes this more obvious.
Mark 8:33 / Get behind me, Satan: strong language that reflects the way Jesus takes Peter’s rebuke of him. It is possible that Jesus’ words indicate that Peter’s attempt to persuade him not to follow a path of humiliation was a genuine temptation that had to be rejected forcefully.
Mark 8:34 / Deny himself: This means that the disciple must be willing to lose all for the sake of following Jesus. “Take up his cross” refers to the practice of making the condemned person carry the crossbeam upon which he was to be tied or nailed at the place of his execution. Death by crucifixion was a Roman execution by state authorities, familiar in ancient Jewish life on account of the Jewish rebels caught and executed.
Mark 8:35 / For me and for the gospel: What is implied here is a trial before religious or state authorities in which one’s profession of Christ is the issue. “To lose one’s life for me” (Christ) would mean to refuse to renounce Christ in such a situation, even if the punishment were death. “And for the gospel” implies that the person charged has come to the attention of authorities on account of preaching the Christian message. The gospel in this absolute sense is with one exception used only in Mark and in Paul (see Mark 1:15; 10:29; 13:10; Acts 15:7; Romans 10:16; 11:28; 1 Corinthians 4:15; 9:14, 18, 23; 2 Corinthians 8:18). The term means not only the message but also the activity of circulating it, and this little phrase (unique in Mark, cf. Matthew 16:25; Luke 9:24) must indicate that Mark wished his readers to know of the importance of the mission of the church.
Mark 8:38 / “When he comes” probably refers to the appearance of Christ in glory that was expected by early Christians and continues to be the hope of all traditional believers. Angels were expected to accompany him. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:6–10.
Believers Bible Commentary: 2
Jesus lived a life of incessant service for others. We have seen Him hated by His enemies and misunderstood by His friends. We have seen a life of dynamic power, of moral perfection, of utter love and humility.
Mark 8:31 But the path of service to God leads on to suffering and death. So the Savior now told the disciples plainly that He must (1) suffer; (2) be rejected; (3) be killed; (4) rise again. For Him the path to glory would lead first to the cross and the grave. “The heart of service would be revealed in sacrifice,” as F. W. Grant put it.
Mark 8:32, 33 Peter could not accept the idea that Jesus would have to suffer and die; that was contrary to his image of the Messiah. Neither did he want to think that his Lord and Master would be slain by His foes. He rebuked the Savior for suggesting such a thing. It was then that Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Not that Jesus was accusing Peter of being Satan, or of being indwelt by Satan. He meant, “You are talking like Satan would. He always tries to discourage us from wholly obeying God. He tempts us to take an easy path to the Throne.” Peter’s words were Satanic in origin and content, and this caused the Lord’s indignation. Note that Jesus first looked at His disciples, then rebuked Peter, as if to say, “If I do not go to the cross, how can these, My disciples, be saved?”
Mark 8:34 Then Jesus said to them in effect, “I am going to suffer and die so that men might be saved. If you desire to come after Me, you must deny every selfish impulse, deliberately choose a pathway of reproach, suffering and death, and follow Me. You may have to forsake personal comforts, social enjoyments, earthly ties, grand ambitions, material riches, and even life itself.” Words like these make us wonder how we can really believe that it is all right for us to live in luxury and ease. How can we justify the materialism, selfishness, and coldness of our hearts? His words call us to lives of self-denial, surrender, suffering, and sacrifice.
Mark 8:35 There is always the temptation to save our life—to live comfortably, to provide for the future, to make one’s own choices, with self as the center of everything. There is no surer way of losing one’s life. Christ calls us to pour out our lives for His sake and the gospel’s, dedicating ourselves to Him spirit, soul, and body. He asks us to spend and be spent in His holy service, laying down our lives, if necessary, for the evangelization of the world. That is what is meant by losing our lives. There is no surer way of saving them.
Mark 8:36, 37 Even if a believer could gain all the world’s wealth during his lifetime, what good would it do him? He would have missed the opportunity of using his life for the glory of God and the salvation of the lost. It would be a bad bargain. Our lives are worth more than all the world has to offer. Shall we use them for Christ or for self?
Mark 8:38 Our Lord realized that some of His young disciples might be stumbled in the path of discipleship by the fear of shame. So He reminded them that those who seek to avoid reproach because of Him will suffer a greater shame when He returns to earth in power. May His words “ashamed of Me … in this adulterous and sinful generation” speak to our hearts.
1 Hurtado, L. W. (2011). Mark (p. 142). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
2 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1341–1342). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]