Last week we read in Scripture Jesus' question "Who do you say I am?" This week we will go on to see what Jesus has to say about what it means to be God's Messiah and what He expects from those who would follow Him as Christians.
History teaches us that Mark wrote this Gospel in Rome Just after the burning of Rome by the Emperor Nero in 64 A.D.
The Christians at Rome were hated as Atheists because they wouldn't offer sacrifices at any of the local temples and when any natural disaster occurred, Christians always got the blame because it was they who "angered the gods."
When Rome burned, Nero blamed Christians for starting the fire and he proceeded to persecute any who were found to be followers of Jesus.
The torture and death of the faithful were unspeakable and many were shaken in their faith.
"If God loves us would He allow such horror to go on
Questions like this have always arisen among God's
faithful, even to this day. Unlike the world religions, the
answer to this question comes not from the theologians who came
after, but from the founder Himself. The very one who showed us
what it means to be faithful to God, even unto death on a cross.
Open your Bibles to Mark 8, and read verses 31-38 several times carefully.
When Jesus confirmed that He was The Messiah in our previous lesson, the Apostles were overjoyed.
"Now Jesus shall set us free from Rome, evil will be stamped out, and Israel shall prosper and know peace and wealth!!"
This was the typical concept of what the Messiah would accomplish.
We have seen that the Apostles hearts were dull whenever Jesus challenged their understanding of God and His Kingdom. (Mk 6:52, 8:17)
This "new" teaching of Jesus was disturbing enough when He taught it to His Apostles, but now He begins to teach it openly to the Crowds who come to hear Him, this will never do. Jesus needs to be straightened out before he damages his reputation, but who among the Apostles will do it?
Peter stands forth and takes Jesus aside.
When Jesus hears Peter reject the way of the cross and sees the Apostles looking on with approval, He names Peter Satan. The name Satan comes from the Hebrew and it means: the enemy, the attacker, the opposer, the accuser. Jesus words "Get behind me", demand Peter and The Apostles to forsake their hope for a worldly Kingdom and to submit to God's agenda even if it means rejection, persecution, and death. They insist on surrender to Jesus authority to lead them on the path that God has set, the path that leads to The Cross.
Jesus public teaching must have turned away all but the most determined. He required all to forsake everything and proclaimed that following Him would lead to torture and death. He clearly stated that to reject Him as Messiah would result in eternal judgment.
The Christians at Rome who first received this Gospel must have rejoiced and been much comforted at these words. It meant that the persecution they suffered was an affirmation of their faith in Jesus and that Jesus not only predicted it, he led the way and set the example through the cross. God does allow his children to suffer, yet he promises Glory to all who endure it in the Name of Jesus.
Does your relationship with Jesus go beyond the blessings and embrace persecution and perhaps even death? or does it go only as far as your own agenda allows?
2Ti 3:12 says "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
Jesus promise that The Kingdom of God is soon coming in power may have different interpretations but this is clear, that all who have ever suffered loss or tribulation because of their faith in Jesus, can look forward to a Kingdom and Glory from God that will never pass away.
The suffering we experience in this life is temporary and limited, the reward of God to his faithful is forever.