Rejection and Suffering

As Jesus approached Jerusalem, he explained what it meant to be the Messiah and Son of God, namely, rejection, suffering, and death. His prediction was contrary to popular expectations about the Messiah, including those of his closest disciples. He also summoned anyone who chose to follow him to take up his Cross and emulate his example, and failure to do so would render the would-be disciple an object of shame before the Lord of Glory.

The Roman government may have been the instrument of his execution, nevertheless, Jesus placed the primary responsibility for it on the “elders and chief priests and scribes.” The Torah-observant religious leaders of Israel were complicit in the plot to deliver him into the hands of Pontius Pilate to be put to death - (Mark 8:31).

Cross Ocean -  Photo by Parker Hilton on Unsplash
[Photo by Parker Hilton on Unsplash]

As his entourage drew near the city, Jesus “b
egan 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 to be killed, and after three days, to rise.” In response, Peter took him aside and “reproved him.” For a disciple to rebuke his master demonstrated how seriously Peter objected to his words.

Jesus declared his impending fate “plainly,” and the fact that Peter reacted so quickly and sharply demonstrates that he understood his words but did not like what he heard. The very suggestion that Israel’s Messiah would be killed by the nation’s greatest enemy and through the machinations of the priestly authorities was unacceptable to a devout and patriotic Jew.

Jesus “turned around and looked on his disciples,” then he rebuked Satan. Although Peter said the words, the rebuke was for the benefit of all twelve disciples since Peter gave voice to what they all were thinking. Moreover, Jesus recognized that Peter’s words originated from Satan. The Devil was determined to thwart him from his messianic calling. His mission was to destroy Satan and his strongholds, but as Scripture attested, the Messiah would accomplish this through suffering and death:

  • Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes, we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way, and Yahweh laid on him the iniquity of us all” - (Isaiah 53:4-6).

Jesus said this in private, and his words were clear.  An incorrect understanding of what it meant to be the Messiah would result in an incorrect understanding of what it meant to be his disciple. Just as God called His Son to self-denial and suffering, so Jesus called his disciples to walk the same difficult path that he did, and so, he exhorted his followers to deny themselves, “take up the cross,” and follow him.


Every would-be disciple must be willing to tread where the Nazarene walked even when doing so means shame, persecution, rejection, loss of possessions, and even death. Doing so is not optional, for “whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake and the gospel will save it.”

In his explanation, he summoned his followers to “TAKE UP THE CROSS.” Not only did this hint at how he would die, but he also presented them with a grim image.

Crucifixion was employed by Rome for executing rebellious slaves and political revolutionaries. The condemned man was forced to carry the crossbar of the cross to the execution site, adding to his humiliation. Romans were so horrified by crucifixion that citizens were exempted by law from it. If found guilty of capital offenses, citizens were beheaded.

Cross on mountain - Photo by Xavier von Erlach on Unsplash
[Photo by Xavier von Erlach on Unsplash]

According to Jesus, the “
Son of Man” will be ashamed of anyone ashamed of him in “this adulterous and sinful generation.” Any disciple who fails to deny himself and “take up the cross” will find himself in this predicament when he “comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Jesus identified himself with the “Suffering Servant” in the Book of Isaiah and with the “Son of Man” in Daniel. The former illustrated his suffering and death for his people, the latter his arrival in glory at the end of the age.

Both passages from the Hebrew Bible are necessary for understanding Jesus and his mission. While glory would come, it did NOT precede self-denial, suffering, and death, but came only afterward. The same is true for his disciples. To follow Jesus means embracing his Cross.

  • His Path - (Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God, a reality distinct from the political realms and governments of this age)
  • The Mind of Christ - (The submission of Jesus to an unjust death becomes the paradigm for the love and service to others that disciples are summoned to manifest)
  • Suffering and Discipleship - (To follow Jesus means self-denial and a willingness to suffer for his sake, and enduring persecution is the highest honor in his kingdom)



The Word Made Flesh

Language of the New Testament