Some thoughts about the cross

This morning I was working in Mark 8, where, after extracting a confession from his disciples through Peter as to his identity (8:29) and then explaining his impending passion (8:31-32), Jesus addresses the multitudes along with the disciples regarding the nature of discipleship. In 8:34 Jesus declares, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus had just finished rebuking Peter by stating, “Get behind me, Satan” (8:33).  It is likely that the expression “behind me” (ὀπίσω μου) is an exhortation to Peter for him to get in line behind Jesus so as to take his position as disciple. This is so because the very next verse has Jesus saying, “If anyone wishes to come after me” and the expression “after me” is identical to the previous verse (ὀπίσω μου).

However it is the expression, “take up his cross” that is so challenging. The cross has no real contemporary referent for us. Perhaps this is where a good commentary can help us. James Edwards, in his commentary on Mark in the Pillar series has a helpful discussion. He writes,

          Modern culture is exposed to the symbol of the cross primarily in jewelry or figures of speech (e.g., “bearing a cross” as putting up with an inconvenience or hardship). How vastly different was the symbol of the cross in the first century! An image of extreme repugnance, the cross was an instrument of cruelty, pain, dehumanization, and shame. The cross symbolized hated Roman oppression and was reserved for the lowest social classes. It was the most visible and omnipresent aspect of Rome’s terror apparatus, designed especially to punish criminals and quash slave rebellions. In 71 B.C. the Roman general Crassus defeated the slave-rebel Spartacus and crucified him and six thousand of his followers on the Appian Way between Rome and Capua. A century later in Mark’s day, Nero would crucify and burn Christians who were falsely accused of setting fire to Rome.

          The image of the cross signifies a total claim on the disciple’s allegiance and the total relinquishment of his resources to Jesus (256).

Perhaps with this description about the Roman cross, it is a bit easier to understand what Jesus says next: “and follow me.”

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Categories: Christ, Commentary, Greek

2 replies

  1. Brother Dan,
    Thanks for another great post, and once again quite timely for my current study. From Mark 8:33, does appear to you that the word Satan (Σατανᾶς) is referring to “Satan the spirit/adversary” or is it referring directly to Peter and how his rebuke is sinful and contrary (or adversarial) to the will of God?

    It appears to me from the text to be the latter, (very) roughly saying in context of the attempted rebuke by Peter:

    Don’t rebuke Me! I know I will suffer, I have submitted to the Authority of My Father. You are corrupted by your sin and are acting as though you were an enemy of God! Stop following your own desires & will, get behind Me and do the Will of My Father!”

    However, I have many preachers preach it as direct command against Satan “the spirit” & it makes me wonder if I’m missing something obvious. I would love to hear your thoughts and any clarification you can provide.

    Thanks,
    Mike

  2. Mike,

    Mark does tell us that Jesus “rebuked Peter and said…” so I do believe, as you suggest, that it is Peter he is addressing, but noting for us that it is Satan who was the source of Peter’s thoughts and words.

    Dan

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