9) The Turn (Mark 8:27-9:1)

Chap 1: The Dance (Trinity) (Mark 1:9-11): Do you expect others to dance around you?
Chap 2: The Gospel, The Call (Mark 1:14-20): Is your gospel good news or good advice?
Chap 3: The Healing (Mark 2:1-5): Are your sins against God or people (Ps 51:4)?
Chap 4: The Rest (Mark 2:23-3:6): Are you trying to rest in your efforts for significance?
Chap 5: The Power (Mark 4:35-41): Do you enjoy goodness and calm in a storm?
Chap 6: The Waiting (Mark 5:21-43): Do you have peace when God delays?
Chap 7: The Stain (Mark 7:1-23): Do you feel unclean, insignificant?
Chap 8: The Approach (Mark 7:24-37): Do you know you’re a dog, yet loved?


"If you gain the whole world, it won't be big enough or bright enough to cover up the stain of inconsequentiality." (104)

"Taking up your cross means for you to die to self-determination, die to control of your own life, die to using him for your agenda." (107)

"If your agenda is the end, then Jesus is just the means; you're using him. But if Jesus is the King, you cannot make him a means to your end." (106)

"We can't live without love. That means there's a certain mercenary quality to our relationships. We invest our love only where we know we'll get a good return." (98)

"In the end we're all alike, groping for true love and incapable of fully giving it. What we need is someone to love us who doesn't need us at all. Someone who loves us radically, unconditionally, vulnerably. Someone who loves us just for our sake." (99)

"In false love your aim is to use the other person to fulfill your happiness... it's nonvulnerable: You hold back so that you can cut your losses if necessary. But in true love, your aim is to spend yourself and use yourself for the happiness of the other... You give it regardless of whether your loved one is meeting your needs. And it's radically vulnerable: You spend everything, hold nothing back, give it all away." "...our real problem is that nobody is actually fully capable of giving true love. We want it desperately, but we can't give it." (98)

Intro: In Mark 8, a pivotal chapter, the climax of the 1st act, the disciples finally see the true identity of the one they were following. Jesus says 2 things: "I'm a King, but a King going to a cross (Mark 8:31-33);" and "If you want to follow me, you're got to come to the cross too (Mark 8:34-9:1)."

When asked the big question "Who is Jesus?" Peter correctly answers "You are the Christ" (Mark 8:27-30), which means the Anointed One, the Messiah, the King to end all kings, the King who's going to put everything right. Jesus accepts Peter's answer and immediately begins to say things that the disciples find appalling and shocking. "Yes, I'm the King," Jesus says, "but I'm not anything like the king you were expecting" (Mark 8:31-32).

A Messiah who Suffers and Dies?

Jesus referred to himself as "the Son of Man" (Mark 8:31), a divine messianic figure (Dan 7:13-14), who "must suffer..." with the word "must" meaning that that this was the very reason he came: to suffer and die! Never before this moment has anyone ever connected suffering with the Messiah. A Messiah who would suffer made no sense at all, because the Messiah was supposed to defeat evil and injustice and make everything right in the world. How could he defeat evil by suffering and dying? It seemed ridiculous, impossible.

This prompted Peter's "rebuke," a verb Jesus used elsewhere for what he does to demons. Thus, Peter was condemning Jesus in the strongest possible language, for this was unheard of and unthinkable. Jesus was saying, "Yes, I'm the Messiah, the King, but I came not to live but to die. I'm not here to take power but to lose it; I'm here not to rule but to serve. And that's how I'm going to defeat evil and put everything right."

The word "must" repeated twice means that his suffering and death is an absolute necessity: Jesus must suffer, must be rejected, must be killed, must be resurrected. Jesus didn't say, "I've come to die" but "I have to die." The world, nor our lives, can't be renewed otherwise. Why is Jesus' death absolutely necessary?

  1. To personally show us perfect love, radically vulnerable love. When we begin to get it, when we begin to experience it, the fakery and manipulativeness of our own love starts to wash away, and we're got the patience and security to reach out and start giving a truer love to others.
  2. To pay off the debt legally. When someone owes you, there are only 2 options:
    1. Make the person pay.
    2. Forgive, which means you absorb the debt.
Why It's So Agonizingly Hard To Forgive

Instead of making the other person suffer, you're absorbing the cost/debt yourself. You are forgiving them and it is costing you. True forgiveness always entails suffering. So the debt of wrong doesn't vanish: Either they pay or you pay. But here's the irony. Only if you pay that price of forgiveness, only if you absorb the debt, is there any chance of righting the wrong. Sin always entails a penalty. Guilt can't be dealt with unless someone pays. (101)

The only way God can pardon us and not judge us is to go to the cross and absorb it into himself. "I must suffer," Jesus said.

Christ Killed not by the Godless and the Wicked, but by the Religious Elite

Christ was killed not by hoodlums, but by those who claimed to stand for justice, those who claimed to believe the Bible--the chief priests and the teachers of the law--and aided by the Roman rulers. The cross reveals the systems of the world to be corrupt, serving power and oppression instead of justice and truth. In condemning Jesus, the world was condemning itself.

When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he won through losing. He didn't "fight fire with fire." He didn't take power; he gave it up--and yet he triumphed. The powers/systems of this world--including religious power--uses your fear to control you. But if we find the way to cling to Jesus, the worst thing, even death, is the best thing. When fear and death loses its sting because of the cross, then you can live a life of love and not a life of fear.

What does it mean to take up your cross? Jesus is a King who goes to a Cross to Die; His Followers must go to a Cross too (Mark 8:34-9:1).

Jesus said, "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it" (Mark 8:35). The Greek word for "life" is psyche, from which we get the word psychology. It denotes your identity, your psychology, your selfhood--what makes you distinct. Jesus is addressing what we build our life, our identity on--money, reputation, status--which are all performance-based, achievement-based. Jesus says that will never work (Mark 8:36); it can't cover up the deep stain of feeling inconsequential.

"Deny yourself, take up your cross" is not to go from bad to good, from immoral to moral, from selfish to sacrificial, from carefree to going to church. If we do, it's simply shifting from 1 performance-based identity to another. Jesus says that it must be a whole new way. It is to lose the old self, the old identity, and base ourselves and our identity on Jesus and the gospel (Mark 8:35).

However, if you simply "build your life on God," instead of on romance, career, money, etc, then God simply becomes an abstraction, and then building our life on God is just an act of the will. The only thing that can reforge and change a life at its root is love, which we must experience and "feel" and be moved by viscerally and existentially. Going to Jesus to try to get something, anything, is not really going to Jesus. That's why Peter was furious (Mark 8:32). He had his own agenda, and it didn't include suffering.

"If (Jesus) were only a king on a throne, you’d submit to him just because you have to. But he’s a king who went to the cross for you. Therefore you can submit to him out of love and trust." (107)

Question: What is your identity based on?

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