Remember that episode of The Office when Michael dates Pam’s mom? Remember how it drives Pam bonkers? Remember how the tension builds and eventually boils over in the break room when Pam yells at Michael, “Stop dating my mother!” And Michael says, “You know what? I’m gonna start dating her even harder.” Here’s the clip.
That’s the vibe I get from the 8th and 9th chapters of Mark’s gospel…
Prior to Mark 8 Jesus has been flagrantly offending people who have the authority and the ambition to execute him (Mark 2:7, 16, 24; 3:6, 22-30). Jesus has not been shy about “poking the bear” as they say (e.g. Mark 7:1-13).
And then, in Mark chapter 8, Jesus very explicitly (and repetitiously) talks about how his divine mission is to suffer many things, and be rejected, and killed.
And, like Pam, Peter pulls Jesus aside and says, “Stop talking about dying!”
To which Jesus replies, “You know what? I’m gonna talk about dying even harder!”
And then, in the face of His disciple’s concern and chagrin, Jesus calls a press conference, and says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. …Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
After this infamous press conference, there was six days of awkward silence.
During this week of uncomfortable silence perhaps the disciples are thinking, “Maybe this ‘I must die‘ business is just a phase Jesus is going through. Hopefully this six day silence is a sign that Jesus is reconsidering his position, and he’s realizing how unreasonable he’s being. Surely, Jesus won’t persist in his adamance about dying.”
And then… Jesus made things even more awkward. He selects 1/4 of his leadership team and takes them on an exclusive field trip. Jesus, Peter, James, and John go on a hike together. They hike a mountain, and when they reach the summit… Moses and Elijah magically appear! And Moses, Elijah, and Jesus talk about…
We actually don’t know for sure what they talk about, but based on the characters and context we can surmise they talked about (you guessed it) how Jesus must die (e.g. Hebrews 11:26)!
Peter, ever the pundit, tries once again to redirect the focus by suggesting that they build shrines on the mountain for this hallowed trio. But Peter is interrupted by God’s shekhinah glory cloud, and the voice of God the Father overshadows Peter’s suggestion, saying, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” In other words, “Stop telling Jesus not to die, and instead start getting him ready to die” (e.g. Mark 14:8-9).
Later that day, having just seen Elijah in person, Peter, James, and John point out that “It can’t be time for Jesus to die, because the prophecies say that Elijah must come first!” But Jesus will not be deterred. Jesus replies to his disciples saying, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased (see Mark 6:27), as it is written of him.”
Here’s the deal… we desperately want to avoid the facts revealed in 1 Timothy 1:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21; and 1 Corinthians 2:2. But Jesus won’t let us. We yell at Jesus, “Stop making us live out Hebrews 12:2!” To which Jesus replies, “You know what, I’m gonna make you live out Hebrews 12:2 even harder!”