The King We Needed, But Never Wanted
“The Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.” (Mark 10:33)
The road to Calvary was a road of confusion, not confidence, for those first disciples.
Three times Jesus explained to these men what it meant for him to be the Messiah. It was a horrific, yet hope-filled story: the murder of the promised king and then an inexplicable, unprecedented resurrection. It was way over the shortsighted, glory-hungry heads of Peter, James, John, and the others.
Their ignorance and wrong responses highlight ungodly grooves in the human heart. Their errors weren’t peculiar to first-century fishermen. No, they’re as pervasive and offensive in the church today. As we look forward to the horrors of Good Friday and the victory of Easter, we have to ask again, Who do we say this Jesus is? (Mark 8:29). Is he the Christ (on God’s terms)? Or is he just the all-wise, all-powerful key to something or someone else?
The Son of Suffering, Not Comfort
The drama begins with that question, “Who do you say that I am?” “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29). Peter was simultaneously very right, and very wrong. The word Christ was fitting in every respect. It was the right answer. But even though Peter’s profile of the promised one was rightly named, it fell woefully flat.
Jesus paints a more detailed portrait of the Christ — the job description of the most important human who’s ever lived:
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. (Mark 8:31)
Peter (and presumably the other disciples) despised the idea of a suffering Christ. That’s why he immediately gets in Jesus’s face (Mark 8:32). Having rightly identified the Christ, he then presumed to have the perspective and authority to correct him. Right, yet tragically wrong.
The only Savior who truly saves, only saves through suffering. The cross was the only means of making us sinners right before a holy God. Our salvation was purchased with suffering, and it will be sealed and preserved with suffering (James 1:2–4), not comfort. We are promised comfort in the Christian life (2 Corinthians 1:4), but not the cheap, temporal imitation we’ve grown accustomed to in our modern world.
“The rewards of following Jesus won’t come in full today, but they surpass anything else you could have hoped for.”
If we come to the crucified one expecting him to make life easier and more comfortable, we’re not listening to him. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
The Son of Death, Then Life
Again, Jesus tells them the story of Calvary before it happens:
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” (Mark 9:30–31)
Many of Jesus’s followers thought Jesus came to rescue and reign now. They anticipated a physical and political freedom from the oppressive Roman rule. For them, the Christ was the key to their immediate, this-world issues. Life now. Freedom now. Power now. But Jesus, walking to the cross, instead says to wait. Be patient.
The rewards of following me, of finding life in me won’t come in full today, but they will far surpass anything else you could have hoped for. In this story of life and hope and freedom, death comes first, and then life. Darkness, and then liberating, untouchable, unsearchable light.
The Son of Rejection, Not Approval
A third time, Jesus prepares them (and us) for his death:
And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (Mark 10:32–34)
“We must surrender to the King we really needed, not the one we might have imagined for ourselves.”
The disciples certainly imagined there would be opposition in Jerusalem, but not like this. They expected a hostile takeover — and that did happen — but they expected Rome would be the bruised one, not the King. They were happy to have an opposed King, but not a rejected one, certainly not one who was betrayed, tortured, and executed.
Jesus did not come to purchase the approval of others. No, he “was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised” (Isaiah 53:3). Why? Because it is God’s approval we desperately need. And God’s approval doesn’t come by popular opinion, but by divine intervention — the substitution of his own Son in our place. We were saved through rejection (Isaiah 53:3), and by God’s grace, we will be carried and delivered through rejection (Matthew 10:22).
The call to Calvary — to follow Jesus — is a call to die, and rise again. It’s a call to everlasting next-life gain through temporary this-life loss. Salvation isn’t about securing our unique and selfish desires and ambitions on this earth, but about securing and preparing our souls for another world, a new creation built and preserved for our glory in God’s and our satisfaction in him.
To truly live, we must surrender to the King we really needed, not the one we might have imagined for ourselves.