Jesus asks two questions in Mark chapter 8, and He symbolizes them through His progressive healing of the blind man:
Who do men say I am?
Who do you say I am?
In this passage, Jesus attempts to wipe away any ambiguity that lingered in the disciples’ eyes by “speaking plainly to them” concerning His suffering, death, and resurrection. Peter, who only a few verses prior made the astute confession that Jesus is the Christ, here takes Jesus aside to rebuke Him for predicting His death! Jesus, in the beginning of Mark 8, warned His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod (8:15). Peter evidences a puffed-up pride that propelled him to “correct” his Master, misjudge Jesus’ mission and ministry, and seeks primarily to promote and preserve his own status—“the things of man.”
When we see Jesus clearly as both the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 and the King of Glory depicted in Revelation 19–21, we are setting our minds on the things of God. When we seek to use Jesus as a springboard for our own ambitions, we’re aligning ourselves with the kingdoms of this world—which is ruled by Satan. We’re blind guides.
If a disciple is prone to prideful pitfalls . . . so are we. Self-preservation comes more naturally for us than self-denial and taking up a cross. But if the disciples and the crowds who looked on were resolved to follow Jesus, He wanted them to know in no uncertain terms what that would mean.
Did you catch how Jesus turned around, observed His disciples, and decided to turn Peter’s rebuke into a teachable moment for all to hear (8:33–34)? His words pierce our souls too:
If anyone would come after Me, let her deny herself and take up her cross and follow Me.
If your faith in Jesus leaves you unchanged, unchallenged, comfortable, and complacent, you’re living as a citizen in the wrong kingdom, sister. Setting our minds on the things of God can’t be as easy or simple as self-preservation. Jesus was unequivocally emphatic about this.
When we take Jesus at His word, when we clearly see Him as the Suffering Servant and the King of Glory, it transforms our perspective—it grows us into perseverance and strength. Suffering is seen for what it is: an element of life following Jesus, and, as Paul said, “a light momentary affliction” in the face of the eternal glory that is ours in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:17). Death to self in service of Jesus becomes a way of life—a hard one, but a worthy one. We also see people for who they are: image bearers in need of salvation who cannot save us.
When we assent to Jesus’ claim as both Suffering Servant and King of Glory, we abdicate our own thrones, our own little kingdoms. We hand Jesus our scepter and forfeit the hubris and folly of rebuking Him when we don’t like His words or His path.