On the Way

As they approached Jerusalem, Jesus queried his disciples: Who do men say that I am? At least nine times, the Gospel of Mark declares that Jesus was “ON THE WAY.” His march to the City of David echoed the words in the Book of Isaiah applied previously to John the Baptist- “Behold, I send my messenger before your face who will prepare YOUR WAY.”

Since his first appearance in “Galilee of the Nations,” the Nazarene has been on the road. However, his journey does not end in Jerusalem or the Temple, but on Calvary and with his inevitable death at the hands of his enemies.

Rough Path - Photo by Jan Huber on Unsplash
[Photo by Jan Huber on Unsplash]

Jesus is identified by one of his disciples as the “
Christ,” the Messiah of Israel. But he immediately commanded his disciples not to divulge this information to anyone. This occurred in Caesarea Philippi, a town built in honor of Caesar Augustus. Possibly, Jesus avoided the label “Messiah” since it was a politically charged term that carried implications of rebellion against Roman rule, at least, in its popular usage.

Though his closest disciples understood him to be the Messiah, they did not yet understand what that meant. When Jesus asked what others were saying about him, they gave a threefold answer that matched the speculation of the crowds. He was John the Baptist, Elijah, or “one of the prophets” - (Mark 6:14-16, Mark 8:27-38).

This is the first time since the opening of Mark that he is called “Christ” or Messiah. From here on, the stress is on him as the Suffering Servant who is on the “way” to his inevitable death.


By predicting his suffering and death, Jesus explained who the Messiah was and what would be done to him. Three times in Mark, he tells his disciples of his imminent arrest and execution - (Mark 8:31-38, 9:31, 10:33-34).

The idea of a suffering Messiah was contrary to popular expectations. At the time, there were different ideas about this figure, but no devout Jew expected the Messiah to be killed by the nation’s greatest enemy, Rome. However, even though the Empire was guilty of carrying out his judicial murder, it was the machinations of the “elders and the chief priests and the scribes” of Jerusalem that caused it.

When Jesus raised the subject of suffering, Peter began “to reprove” him, a term emphasizing how seriously he objected to this prediction. He spoke “plainly” about his impending death. This was no parable or enigmatic saying. The fact that Peter reacted so sharply demonstrated that he understood the words of his Master.

However, Jesus recognized that Peter’s opposition originated from Satan, who was determined to thwart him from following God’s ordained path. Therefore, he responded immediately and sharply. Earlier, he announced that his mission was to destroy Satan and his strongholds.

As it turned out, that could only be accomplished in a manner no one expected - Through his sacrificial death - (Mark 1:24, 3:27).

An incorrect understanding of who the Messiah was (and is) would (and will) produce a false view of what it meant to be his disciple. Just as God called His Son to self-denial and suffering, so Jesus summoned every disciple to deny himself and walk the same path that he did.

In Mark’s account, his call for each disciple to emulate his example was made to the entire crowd, not just his inner circle. It was (and is) APPLICABLE TO EVERY DISCIPLE. The cross was a repugnant image of suffering and shame, and crucifixion symbolized the irresistible power of Rome. To follow Jesus was to embrace the very things the world despised.

The image of a disciple taking up a cross would strike a grim chord with his first-century audience. The Roman practice was to force the condemned man to carry the same cross on which he would be hung to the place of execution.

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

His reference to “
this adulterous and sinful generation” echoes the past rebukes of Israel by the prophets. The words, “whenever he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels,” refer to his future return.

The two images Jesus used to portray his messianic role were that of the Suffering Servant from Isaiah and of the ‘Son of Man’ described in the Book of Daniel - (Isaiah 57:3-13, Ezekiel 16:32-41, Hosea 2:2-6, Daniel 7:13-14).

The image of the Suffering Servant emphasized his rejection, suffering, and death on behalf of others. Not exclusively so, but most often in the three synoptic gospels, the term “Son of Man” is applied to his future “arrival on the clouds of Heaven.”

In God’s redemptive plan, his unjust death must precede his resurrection and exaltation to the Messianic Throne; therefore, Jesus found himself “on the way” to Jerusalem where his enemies would put him to death. This was not an aberration but went to the very heart of his Messianic mission.




Covenant and Redemption

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