What Must Be Done?
“And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, and the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake the saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But he turning about, and seeing his disciples, rebuked Peter, and saith, Get thee behind me, Satan; for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:31-33).
The Lord’s teaching methods complemented his purpose and were changed when necessary. Before Mark 8:31, he often taught publicly through parables because of the spiritual dullness of many. Similarly, the redemptive timeline in Mark 8 was such that he chose that moment to reveal plainly to the disciples what “Messiah” means. He “must” suffer (Grk. dei; i.e., it is necessary, inevitable). He must be rejected. He must be killed. He must rise again.
He taught this openly (cf. Matthew 16:21). He related his Messianic work to them in plain terms. They heard him reveal the inevitable in straightforward language. Previously, he had mentioned the destruction of “this temple,” after which he would raise it in three days, and he also spoke of the sign of Jonah (cf. John 2:19,22; Matthew 12:40). But these veiled allusions to his death were not appreciated until after the events unfolded. At Caesarea Philippi, however, he told them clearly what must be done.
When Jesus spoke of the necessary things that would happen to the “Son of Man,” the disciples obviously understood him to be talking about himself. The reaction of Peter demonstrated that this was the case.
The titles “Christ” and “Son of Man” were synonymous, yet political overtones were attached to the more popular title of the expected one — the Christ. Therefore Jesus used the expression “Son of Man” frequently. The description is found eighty-one times in the Gospels, and with the exception of two possible editorial notes from Mark’s pen (2:10,28), the Lord himself uses the title “Son of Man.”
The expression, “Son of Man” was as Messianic as any other title, although the “anointed one” was the popular description of choice. Uniquely, Ezekiel was called by God “Son of Man” more than ninety times as he prophesied the will of God to a captive people.
Daniel the prophet foretold the coming of a person with the clouds of heaven, even unto the Ancient of Days (i.e., God, the eternal one), who was likened unto a son of man (Daniel 7:13). To him would be given “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14). But the disciples, and others, understood not that the path to this glorious kingdom was paved with the vicarious suffering and the death of the Son of Man (cf. Hebrews 2:9-10).
The Sanhedrin, the most influential governing body among the Jews, would be the agency through which the divine plan was to be accomplished (cf. Acts 2:23). The collective voice of the Jews was made through its three representative groups within the council. “The elders” were those respected lay leaders. The “chief priests” were the aristocrats. Included were the high priest, the former high priest, and the leaders of the twenty-four orders of priests—largely Sadducees. “The scribes,” mostly Pharisees, were the respected transcribers and interpreters of the Law of Moses. They would all, with one voice, demand the crucifixion of Jesus — nullifying whatever influence Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea may have had.
In addition to predicting his death, Jesus predicted his resurrection and the time of it — the third day (cf. Mark 9:31; 10:33-34). So clear and known were his predictions that his enemies knew of it, and they requested that his tomb be guarded (Matthew 27:62-66).
But in spite of the foretold glory, Peter could not imagine that Jesus must suffer and die. Peter “took him to himself” (Grk. middle voice) to rebuke the Son of God. Matthew preserved the words of the misguided apostle, who said, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall never be unto thee” (16:22). Mark vividly puts the scene into words: “But he turned about, and seeing his disciples, rebuked Peter, and saith, Get thee behind me, Satan” (Mark 8:33).
Peter was not the only one reprimanded. All who entertained the thoughts that Peter vocalized behaved as his adversary, Satan. Simon Peter expressed the same idea that was raised by the devil in the wilderness. Satan “offered” another way to glory — a way without the humiliation and anguish of Calvary. To avoid such agony would be a temptation to any man (and we can hardly comprehend the agony of the Son of God who bore the sins of mankind), but such was not the path that would glorify the Father and save the souls of men, regardless of what Satan “promised” or what Peter supposed.
The Lord characterized Peter’s misconception as a failure to mind the things of God. However sincere he may have been, he was wrong. Like many others, he had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. His spiritual near-sightedness would not continue for long, for the Messiah’s work and kingdom would be clearer after the Christ suffered, died, was raised from the dead, ascended to the Father, and poured forth the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).
Jesus had to die. He had to face rejection, suffer, and die, and then rise from the dead. It was necessary because this was the plan of God. It was necessary that he die for our sins, that God might be just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus. It was necessary, for our salvation, for God to send forth his son to be the propitiation for our sins (Romans 3:25ff). There was no other way, and Jesus gave himself that he might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father (Galatians 1:3-4).
Jesus had to die; we must obey him. We must be united with him in his death (Romans 6:3-4). Paul teaches that we are saved when we obey from the heart (Romans 6:17). When we, with confessed faith in Jesus and a penitent heart, are baptized into Christ for the remission of our sins (cf. Acts 2:38), we have obeyed (cf. Hebrews 5:9) that which is necessary to be saved. We are saved by Christ who did what must have been done to save us from our sins. If “must” was necessary in the Lord’s case, it is certainly non-negotiable in our’s.