The Centre of History – Mark 8:31

As Jesus tells His disciples what MUST happen to Him, we learn about the centre of History. This reminds us that God is sovereign, that the calling of the church is to preach the Cross, and it prepares us for the Lord’s Supper.

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Two weeks ago, we looked in detail at LEVITICUS 16 and THE DAY OF ATONEMENT. And we saw how that ceremony pointed us to the greater work of atonement by Jesus.

And then last week we considered 1 COR. 2 where we saw that the calling of the preacher is to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified – We are to preach ‘the message of the cross.’

Well, you boys and girls will know what an INTERSECTION is: An intersection is where two or more roads come together. Well, we kind of have an intersection here today, because the themes of the afternoon sermons of the last two weeks connect with today’s passage quite beautifully.
As Jesus speaks plainly to His disciples about what must happen to Him, we shall see connections with the Day of Atonement and implications for preaching.
And in the Lord’s providence, our celebration of the Lord’s Supper is also informed and enhanced by what Jesus says here.

So let’s turn our attention to this verse as JESUS SPEAKS PLAINLY ABOUT WHAT MUST HAPPEN TO HIM. And we firstly consider WHY He needed to speak plainly, before we consider WHAT He spoke plainly.

So firstly, why Jesus needed to speak plainly.

1. At the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, we were told that this is the Gospel about Jesus CHRIST. Well, finally, here in 8:29, someone – Peter – has recognized Jesus as the Christ. It was a very significant moment. It is what the first half of Mark’s Gospel has been leading up to: Jesus is the Promised One; Jesus is the Anointed One of God; Jesus is Messiah; Jesus is the Christ. The OT prophesied and promised that God would send a deliverer, and now, He has come.

2. Well, the problem that Jesus must address now is an INCORRECT OR INCOMPLETE UNDERSTANDING of what the Christ comes to do. You see, the Jews of that time, including Peter, had a view of Messiah/Christ that had to do with the nation of Israel, overthrowing Roman oppressors, and an earthly kingdom.
a. The golden times for Israel, you see, where the days of King David. He had secured peace for Israel from the surrounding nations, he built Jerusalem and he secured it as the sight where his son, Solomon, would build the temple of the Lord. So the Christ would do all that but in a more glorious, much larger, and more permanent fashion. He would subdue the enemies of Israel, He would rule from Jerusalem, and more and more of the people of the nations would come and worship God in the temple there.
i. When you boys and girls have a birthday party coming up, you start to think about how the house will look with all the decorations and how you will be the centre of attention as people give you presents…
ii. Well, Peter and the other Jews could already picture the day that Jesus was crowned king in Jerusalem. They could already see the elaborate ceremony and the High Priest placing the crown of David on Jesus. And all the leaders and the people would bow in allegiance to the Christ of God. It would be magnificent. And then it would be on to one victorious battle after another.

b. And congregation, LET’S NOT BE TOO HARSH ON PETER and the other Jews who thought like this. They were not complete idiots who just dreamed up this notion from nowhere. They thought like this because of passages like the one we read earlier in ZECHARIAH. Please turn there again.
i. Zechariah spoke of a day when Jerusalem would be a cup that sends the surrounding people reeling. Jerusalem would be an ‘immovable rock for all the nations.” The prophet said, “The house of David will be like God, like the Angel of the Lord going before them.”
A. And it is because of passages like this in the OT that the Jews of Jesus’ time had this view of the Christ.

c. And just keep your finger in Zechariah as you flick back to Mark because we will look again at Zechariah 12 in a moment. The problem though was that Peter and the others WERE NOT UNDERSTANDING THESE PASSAGES CORRECTLY AND THEY WERE IGNORING OTHER PASSAGES. And this is what Jesus has to confront. This is why Jesus had to speak plainly – Peter and the Jews of that time had a wrong understanding of what the Christ would do.

So this leads us, secondly, to WHAT Jesus spoke plainly.

1. In this verse we get the first of three statements that Jesus makes in between now and the cross. And in each of them, Jesus is VERY PLAIN about what is going to happen to Him. He wants the disciples to know what truly is the work of the Christ – He must suffer and be rejected by the leaders of the Jews and be killed and then rise again.

2. And brothers and sisters, young people and boys and girls, a key word here is the small word “MUST.” Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of Man must…” And it is ‘must’ in the sense of these things must happen to the Christ because the OT says so.
a. You see, the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law and the disciples thought that they were students of the OT and that they knew what must happen in relation to the Christ. But Jesus is THE student of the OT – it is His Word (John 1:1) and it is about Him (Luke 24).
i. So flick back again to ZECHARIAH 12:10. Look at that verse: “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”
A. The Jews loved the verses above about Jerusalem and smashing the nations and the house of David, etc, but they failed to see the importance of verses like this one, which ought to have helped them to interpret the others. This verse says that the people of Israel will pierce God!
1) Now later, after Jesus rose and gave the disciples the Holy Spirit, they understood how this verse spoke about Jesus. John, in his Gospel, quotes this verse as fulfilled as Jesus hung on the cross. Jesus was God. He had been pierced by the nails in His hands and feet. And the people of Israel were the ones who called for Him to be crucified.
2) But at the moment the disciples don’t understand this.
3) But Jesus does; He knows that these words are written about what must happen to Him.

ii. And the reference to being pierced will remind some of us of a similar OT prophecy? ISAIAH 53.
A. There we are told that the servant of God will be pierced for transgressions and His people will be healed “by His wounds.”
B. And will the Christ of God be welcomed by everyone, including the leaders of the people? No, says Isaiah 53:3. He will be “rejected by men.”
C. Will His life be one of victory and comfort? No, says Isaiah 53:3. He is to be “a man of sorrows … familiar with suffering.”
D. And from v4, He is to be stricken, smitten, and afflicted (punished) by God.
E. And also from v9, He will die and be in a grave.
1) This is what must happen to Jesus.

iii. And I made reference at the beginning of the sermon to LEVITICUS 16 and the Day of Atonement. In that ceremony, two lambs were to be chosen. One of them was killed and its blood was sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place. The other had all of the sins of the people of Israel laid on its head and it was sent out into the wilderness. And all of this was so that the people might be cleansed from their sins.
A. And Jesus knew that this ceremony described what must happen to Him.

iv. And we could speak also of the bloody sacrifice of the Passover Lamb.
v. We could speak of the ram that the Lord provided Abraham to take the place of Isaac as the sacrifice.
vi. We could speak of the bronze snake that was fixed to a pole and lifted up so that whoever looked on it might not die but live.
A. Jesus knew that all these said something about what must happen to Him.

b. People of God, as you and I read Zech 12:10 and Isaiah 53 and Lev 16 and these other OT sacrifices and ceremonies, by the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit we understand that these passages speak about what would happen to Jesus. But as Jesus read these passages, He learned WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO HIMSELF. How agonising this knowledge must have been for Him.
i. I mean, you all know that moment when you sit in the dentist’s chair as the dentist holds up the needle and tells you that you will just feel a tiny little prick as the needle goes in. So you know now that pain is coming. I shiver just thinking about it now!
ii. But each time Jesus read these words, He not only faced the physical pain of all that they entailed but also the spiritual agony of bearing the weight of your sins and mine and enduring the wrath of His Father in heaven against that sin!

c. Do you see then how much ‘weight’ there is in the word “must” of v31? All that the Scriptures have said about what must happen to Messiah/Christ is soon to happen. And congregation, the reason that we have paused here to dwell on just this verse is because it describes the absolute centre of history.
i. EPHESIANS 1:4 talks about God choosing us in Christ before the creation of the world. And these words together with other Scriptures teach us that before the world was created, the three persons of the Trinity made a plan to create a universe with a whole history that would begin with creation and end with the return of Jesus. And the key moment in this salvation history would require the Second person of the Trinity to go to earth and die on the cross for the sins of God’s chosen people. And here in Mark 8:31, Jesus says that that moment at the centre of history is close at hand.
A. Picture in your minds, if you will, an HOURGLASS. And an hourglass, boys and girls, is one of those little containers which has this tiny little narrow centre bit through which sand flows from the top to the bottom. Well, think of the top of the hourglass as the OT and the bottom as the NT. And all the grains of the OT – the sacrifices and the ceremonies and the prophets and the priests and the kings – all come together in the centre funnel of Jesus and the cross, before they flow out into the time beyond the cross that you and I live in now.
1) Well, Jesus and the cross are the centre of the hourglass of world history.

And so, as we conclude, we want to consider some implications of what Jesus reveals here:
1. What we read here speaks volumes about the SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD. Just think for a moment about the 4000 odd years of world history that make up the OT. Billions of individual people, families, villages, towns, cities, nations, kings, with each making 100s of decisions to do this or not do that. But what is above and behind in the midst of all of this? The sovereign plan of God to arrange all things so that the Christ could come and do the work He came to do. Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” The circumstances of your life at this moment may fill you with joy and delight at this moment, or they may be extremely trying and distressing. The church may be flourishing and enjoying a period of peace and stability and growth or there may be some turmoil and division and instability. But, as we read in Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” God is in control of world history. God is working out His good plan for the life of each of His dearly loved children. The Apostle Paul experienced severe hardships. But in 2 Timothy 4:8 he said, “There is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day– and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” And why could he say this with such confidence? Why was he so certain that this must happen to him and all who long for the appearing of Jesus? Because of what Jesus says here! the things that Scripture said must happen to Jesus, did happen, and the things that Scripture says must happen for all who love the Lord Jesus Christ will happen.

2. But secondly, if the very essence of what the Christ came to do is the cross, what message ought the church of Jesus Christ to preach? Jesus Christ and Him crucified. As we said last week, there are things in Scripture about marriage and ethics and art and health and science and raising children and history and the future. But at the centre of everything must be Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

3. And we have a very visible reminder of this today as we approach this table. Jesus showed kindness, Jesus healed, Jesus performed astonishing miracles, Jesus taught many things about living a godly life, but what did He call us to do in remembrance of Him? To break bread and drink wine as symbols of His broken body and His poured out blood. And why did He call us to do this? He tells us: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
a. Jesus must come again because He has promised to come again.
i. And on that day, as we read a moment ago, a crown of righteousness will be given to all those who long for His appearing.
A. Do you long for His appearing?
B. Do you know and believe Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord?
C. Do you love the Christ who suffered and was rejected and was killed and who rose again on the third day that your sins might be forgiven?
Let us pray.