Mark 8:31-32 “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”
As Peter’s reaction reveals, this was not the way the disciples were thinking Jesus’ life should go. Who in their right mind would think this way? Jesus started teaching it here. He would repeat it a half dozen times leading up to the last days of his ministry. Sometimes he spoke as plainly and clearly. Sometimes it was thinly veiled in a parable. But Jesus made it clear that he was going to suffer, he was going to die, and he was going to rise again.
This was no accident. This was the plan, the one and only plan. “The Son of Man must suffer many things…” and be rejected, and die. It was necessary, because it fits the kind of Savior Jesus came to be. That challenged Peter’s thinking. That is still our challenge, because we don’t naturally think like God about the kind of Savior we need.
Jesus did not come to be the political deliverer. He was not there to make Israel a free nation, and bring down the hated Roman empire. As it turns out, the godless, heathen Roman empire actually fit into God’s plans going forward. Israel as a political entity didn’t fit the plan once Jesus finished his work there.
He still isn’t that kind of Savior. Politicians can invoke God and the Bible all they want. Jesus did not come to save us from high taxes or low wages. He did not come to save us from illegal immigration or unregulated gun ownership or environmental destruction. He did not come to make America great, and Christians will realize this when they start to think like God about his life.
There are a few other misconceptions we can chase here. Jesus did not come to save your career, your health, or your perfect family. Take an honest look at the way he lived his life. His closest followers abandoned him and he was literally executed for the work he was doing. He never married. His siblings and mother all misunderstood him, even considered him crazy at one point in time. He died at the age of 33. That’s probably not the career path, the family, or the lifespan we have been dreaming of.
Nor is he the moral activist Savior who came to save society from its vices. That’s not to say that he failed to express himself on the difference between right and wrong. His word is clear, and we ignore it at our peril. Jesus would not oppose people working for a good and just society. But he was bent on changing the individual. The only protest in which he ever participated was not staged in front of a government office or corrupt business. It was in the middle of the temple, at “church,” and it was a one-man show.
What kind of a person, then, needs a Savior who suffers, is rejected, dies, and rises again? People who know their sins. People who know that their sin isn’t a shrug-your-shoulders issue: we can blow it off because it’s normal. We are just like everybody else. No, we need a Savior like Jesus because each of us has created a mountain of spiritual debt that will kill us. There is no monthly installment plan to keep up with the interest and chip away at the principle. There is no bankruptcy court to restructure our sin-debt and make it more manageable. We owe the whole thing. We owe with our blood. We owe for all eternity.
That takes a special kind of Savior, one who has the ability to pay the whole debt we owe. That’s why it is no accident when he suffers, is rejected, dies and rises again. It is the satisfaction of our debt, the promise of our forgiveness. It is a gift, a sacrifice, an idea that only a God who is pure love and bottomless grace could have conceived.
The whole world is, “Hurt me, and I will make you pay.” The God who sent us Jesus, “You hurt me, but I will pay. I will suffer your hell and die your death.” On this day Jesus began to introduce a new way of thinking to his disciples. He was teaching them to think like God about the kind of Savior they needed.
Today he challenges us to think like God about his life, too, and why it had to end, it had to, the way it did.