On the Cruciform Road

As they approached Jerusalem, Jesus questioned his disciples: Who do men say that I am? The Gospel of Mark declares that he was “ON THE WAY” and does so at least nine times. His unrelenting march to Jerusalem echoed the words of Isaiah the Prophet: “Behold, I send my messenger before your face who will prepare your way.” He was on the road to Calvary and death on the Cross.

One of his disciples identified Jesus as the Messiah, but he commanded his disciples not to divulge this. Moreover, they did not understand what it meant to be the Messiah of Israel. When he asked what others were saying about him, the disciples gave a threefold answer that matched the speculation of the crowds - John the Baptist, Elijah, or “one of the prophets” - (Mark 6:14-16, Mark 8:27-38).

Dark Road - Photo by Daniele Buso on Unsplash
[Photo by Daniele Buso on Unsplash]

By predicting his suffering and death, Jesus explained who the Messiah was and what would be done to him. Three times in
Mark, he tells his disciples of his imminent arrest and execution. He had no illusions about what awaited him in Jerusalem, yet he marched on regardless - (Mark 8:31-38, 9:31, 10:33-34).

The idea of a Suffering Messiah was contrary to popular expectations. There were different ideas about this figure, but no devout Jew expected the Messiah to be killed by the nation’s greatest enemy, Rome. Even more shocking was the suggestion that his death would be caused by the intrigues of the “Elders and the High Priests and the Scribes” of Jerusalem.

When Jesus raised the subject of suffering, Peter began “to reprove” him, a term emphasizing how seriously he objected to this prediction. Jesus spoke “plainly” about his impending death. This was no parable or enigmatic saying. The fact that Peter reacted so sharply demonstrated that he understood the words of his Master.

Jesus recognized that Peter’s opposition originated from Satan, and he could not allow anyone to thwart his God-ordained mission, so, he responded immediately and sharply. Jesus came to destroy Satan and his strongholds, but he would do so in a manner no one expected – By his self-sacrificial death - (Mark 1:24, 3:27).

Furthermore, an incorrect understanding of the Messiah would produce a false view of what it meant to be his disciple. Just as God called His Son to self-denial, rejection, and death; so Jesus summoned every disciple to deny himself and travel the same cruciform road he did.

His call for each disciple to imitate his example was made to the entire crowd present that day. It applied to every real and would-be disciple. The image of the cross represented suffering and shame, and crucifixion epitomized the irresistible might of Rome. Following the same road as Jesus meant embracing the things and values dreaded and despised by the rest of humanity.

The image of a disciple carrying the Cross struck a grim chord with his first-century audience. The Roman practice was to force the condemned man to carry the same cross to the place of execution on which he would be killed.

The two images used by Jesus to describe his Messianic role were the Suffering Servant from Isaiah, and the Son of Man in Daniel. The first image emphasizes his rejection, suffering, and death; the second, his future “arrival on the clouds of Heaven.” - (Isaiah 57:3-13, Ezekiel 16:32-41, Hosea 2:2-6, Daniel 7:13-14).

Hence, his unjust death must precede exaltation and glory, therefore, Jesus found himself “on the way” to Jerusalem and Calvary where his enemies would kill him. His shameful death on the Roman cross was not an aberration or unforeseen event. It went to the very heart of his Messianic Mission and the Divine plan of redemption.



RELATED POSTS:
  • Greatness in his Kingdom - (His disciple is called to engage in self-sacrificial service for others just as Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many – Mark 10:35-45)
  • Servant and King - (Following his baptism in the Jordan, the voice from heaven identified Jesus as the Son of God and the Servant of the LORD)
  • Embracing the Cross - (To be the Messiah of Israel meant suffering and death for others, and Jesus summoned his disciples to follow that same path – Mark 8:31)

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