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.

Mark 8:31

Sometimes I’m surprised when I meet people for the first time, because they do not seem to match the view I had of them in my head. When I met William Hague, I was surprised by how tall he was. When I met Clive Owen, I was surprised by how normal, and un-Hollywood-like he is. When I met Stephen Fry, I was surprised by how friendly and un-smug he is. I guess we all form views of people we have never met, and that these are invariably wrong!

Throughout our Mark Marathon, we have seen people being challenged by who Jesus is. In Mark 8, where this year’s Mark Marathon concludes, we see a crucial turning point in the gospel, because Jesus fully reveals not just his identity, but what will happen to him. The disciples also articulate their view that Jesus is, in fact, the Christ – although at this stage they do not fully understand what this means.

In today’s reading, Jesus calls his diciples aside as they walk to the next town, and tells them what is going to happen to him. He tells them that he will be subjected to suffering, and be rejected by the religious leaders. Most powerfully of all, he tells them that he will be killed. When I heard that my beloved grandmother had cancer and had only weeks to live, I was heartbroken. I can imagine the disciples’ hearts sinking when Jesus told them this. Peter, of course, refuses to believe Jesus, and tries to rebuke him. I’m sure that this was based largely on a misunderstanding of what it meant for Jesus to be the messiah, but I also have no doubt that this was partly because Peter was by this time a close friend of Jesus, and he didn’t want to think of Jesus dying.

Jesus also, of course, tells the disciples that after three days, he would rise from the dead. Now, if one of my friends told me this, I would not believe them, but coming from Jesus, maybe the disciples did. They had certainly seen him achieve some pretty remarkable things!

The crucial thing to realise as we read through this verse, though, is that Jesus died for us. For you. For me. As we approach Christmas, with tomorrow the first Sunday in Advent, it is a perfect opportunity to remind ourselves of this fact. We may remember Jesus the baby at Christmas, but don’t forget what that baby became. He became a compassionate healer, who showed love and concern for all whom he met. He was an incredible miracle worker, with the power to control the elements. He had powers over Satan and demons. He was an awe inspiring and influential teacher who spoke with the authority of God. Yet Jesus rose from the dead after three days, so he is still all of these things.

And Jesus is still the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, and the promised one of the Old Testament. He is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets.

He died on the cross to undo all the sin that we commit everyday. He died to pay for all of our wrongdoings. He died because although it is the punishment that we deserved, he loves us and wanted to take our place.

How much Jesus has done for us. How much we owe him.

Header image: Chatham House, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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