The Perfect Servant in Mark’s Gospel: His Itinerary

As we noted previously, just as the blind man was given his sight in stages (8:22-26), so the disciples would come to gradually understand the identity and work of the Perfect Servant.

Jesus’ Identity Affirmed: The Christ (8:27-30)

Peter confessed the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus in Caesarea Philippi where the worship of Baal, Pan and Caesar had all been practiced. The Lord deliberately introduced the subject by asking the disciples two questions:

Whom do men say that I am? (v27)

What was the consensus regarding the Lord’s identity? “What do the people think?” (v27). The disciples responded, “John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets” (v28).[1] Many likely thought they were honouring Jesus by these opinions but the truth was far greater.

But whom say ye that I am? (v29)

The Lord challenged His disciples directly: “What do you think?” They were immensely privileged witnesses of His words and works. Peter responded, “Thou art the Christ” (v29), making an unequivocal confession of confidence in the Messiahship of Jesus. Here was the long-promised Messiah, or “Anointed One,” who would fulfil the Old Testament offices of prophet, priest and king perfectly. As the Prophet, He revealed God to men. As the Priest, He represents men before God. As the King, He will rule men for God.

However, associated with this title was much confusion in Israel. Even the disciples were incorrect in their understanding of His mission. So, rather than permit His disciples to proclaim His identity, the Lord “charged them that they should tell no man of him” (v30). Better to be silent than to encourage a false understanding based on half the truth. Before they could reveal His identity, the disciples must be educated in, and fully embrace, His mission.

The Cross and Glory (8:31-9:29)

The Lord’s identity having been acknowledged, His itinerary became the focus of His instruction. Notice first that …

The Cross Is Chosen (8:31-38)

The cross was chosen by the Lord (vv31-33). “He began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected … and be killed, and after three days rise again” (v31). As the Servant of the LORD, His pathway was mapped out prior to His coming. Peter, whose expectation of the Messiah allowed for no suffering or death, “began to rebuke him” (v32). The Lord then issued a sharp rebuke to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men” (v33).

Opposition to the Servant’s path was diabolical (1:12-13,21-28). Peter, preoccupied with his own vision of Messianic glory, failed to imbibe the full revelation of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah’s path, and became the mouthpiece of satanic opposition. The Lord would not contemplate deviation from the path but would give His “back to the smiters, and [His] cheeks to them that plucked off the hair” (Isa 50:6).

The cross must also be chosen by us (vv34-38). Turning to the crowd, the Lord confronted all with the challenge of true service: “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (v34).

If any person wants to come after the Lord in service, he must face up to these responsibilities. First, he must accept the Lord’s control and, second, he must accept the world’s contempt. Denying oneself means rejecting self-autonomy and yielding fully to the Lord’s authority. Taking up the cross recognises that a cross-bearing person was an object of ridicule judged by society as unfit to live. Associating with the Lord will mean that I experience the world’s contempt. This must be accepted.

Finally, the servant must follow. This is not a one-off decision but a moment-by-moment resolve to walk in the ways of the Lord.

Such a life, while costly, is not risky. There is no promised present glory but there is a sure reward: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (vv35-37).

In The Magician’s Nephew (by C.S. Lewis), Aslan sent Digory on a mission beyond the borders of Narnia. He was to pluck an apple from a certain tree and bring it back to Aslan. Reaching the garden where the tree was, he saw words on the gate:

Come in by the gold gates or not at all.
Take of my fruit for others or forbear,
For those who steal or those who climb my wall
Shall find their heart’s desire and final despair.

Having smelled the luscious fruit, Digory was sorely tempted to eat it. Then, learning of its life-extending properties, he considered taking it to his sick mother. Overcoming these temptations, he returned to Aslan and yielded up the precious apple to him. This was exceedingly difficult to do, but upon doing it Digory felt absolutely content. And what did Aslan do with the apple? From that apple grew a tree for the blessing of all Narnia. And from that tree more apples sprouted, one bringing healing to Digory’s mother.

Giving ourselves wholly to the Lord is not to lose but to gain. Placing ourselves fully at His disposal results in the most spiritually fulfilling and God-glorifying life of service possible for us. Self-denial, the world’s contempt, and many trials cannot outweigh this fact. The Lord multiplies what we give Him and, in return, He gives what is best.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.