Mark 8:31-38 - Being taught to become a Son of man

Updated: Mar 3

Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”


He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”


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This is the Gospel reading chosen with purpose for the second Sunday in Lent, Year B, in the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. This reading is partnered with an Old Testament reading from Genesis that tells of God’s covenant with Abram, Psalm 22, where David sang, “They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that he has done,” and the epistle of Paul to the Romans, which related the sacrifice of Jesus to that of Abram.


As a reminder that is important to realize prior to any reading of Scripture, one must see oneself appear in the reading. Faith should lead one to grasp how divine Scripture is intended for the reader to gain insight for his or her own life, more than thinking Scripture is God's way of wanting one to hear a story read to you that makes it seem there is nothing one can do about things past. It is from such a position of basic ignorance that everyone must see themselves (individually) as Peter and also as those Jesus knew wanted to save their lives, simply from hanging around one of righteousness, rather than being one of righteousness. One needs to always see oneself as coming up short in divine expectations and being in need of Scripture to save one's soul.


This specific choice of verses are actually split into two separate events, one with Jesus only talking to his disciples and the other with Jesus having called the crowd to join with the conversation. In the versions of English translations available online, these two sets of verses will each have their own heading. For example, the New International Version (NIV) has verses 31-33 headed as “Jesus Predicts His Death,” with verses 34-38 headed “The Way of the Cross.” Simply by recognizing that separation, one can see there are two groups of people who followed Jesus then, just as there are two different groups today: those seeking to learn from Jesus; and, those wanting to be near Jesus.


Because the vast majority of people professing to be “Christians” today fall more in the second group, with those designated as seminarians and their teachers [including those ordained as ministers in churches] in the “disciples” category, most people will overlook the importance of Mark writing, “Jesus began to teach.” It is much easier to stay seated on a pew and hear those words, while imagining them saying, “Jesus began to talk.”


The Greek word written by Mark is “didaskein.” That is the present active infinitive of “didaskó,” saying “to teach, to direct,” or even “to admonish.” HELPS Word-studies adds the word literally means “to cause to learn,” by instruction and imparting knowledge. That source also states the word “nearly always refers to teaching the Scriptures (the written Word of God).”


By simply understanding that “Jesus began to teach,” one cannot read the following words in verses 31-33 as if Jesus began to prophesy his coming life. To prophesy his coming suffering, rejection, death and resurrection makes "to teach" a most inappropriate word choice. Jesus could not “teach” the future, even though he could know what was coming. Because of this one word – “didaskein” – the reader is forced to figure out how the following words [known in hindsight to perfectly fit what happened to Jesus] are "instructions, imparting knowledge." It must drive one to ask, "What was Jesus teaching?"


The answer to that question comes in the words written: “hoti dei ton Huion tou anthrōpou.”


Those words have been translated by the NRSV as saying, “that the Son of Man,” but they are better translated as stating: “what necessitates this Son who of man.”


Here, in the NRSV, one finds another common liberty taken, which is the capitalization of words not capitalized in the original text. This is quite prevalent in the Old Testament, since Hebrew has no capital letters, leading one to improvise when it comes to proper names and other words that need importance shown by way of capitalization. However, because Greek is not like Hebrew in that regard, the capitalization of “Man” misleads one into thinking Jesus referred to himself, bringing about a need to capitalize “anthrōpou” as it three words created a title for Jesus – Son of Man.


With that mis-capitalization [commonly done through the Gospels], one is led to think that Jesus is not teaching about how to become a "Son of man," so one thinks Jesus is not teaching, but talking about himself. The removal of the capitalization of "Man" [which would be Jesus] and reducing it to "man," as written, Jesus can be seen "to teach his disciples" about how to be like him.


It helps to see Mark as himself an Apostle-Saint. As such when writing his Gospel he would have not only listened to Simon-Peter tell his eyewitness account of Jesus’s ministry, but Mark would have been led by the Holy Spirit to understand things in ways that normal minds cannot. As disciples, Peter and the others heard Jesus use the term “Son of man” and heard it as Jesus’ title for himself. However, after they had become married to God and their souls had been merged with the Holy Spirit, they too became Sons of man, as the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Mark wrote divinely, saying that Jesus began to teach those who would become themselves the "Son of man" what they needed to know that transformation demanded of them.


By realizing that this verse states Jesus teaching what all Sons of man need to know, the lesson then becomes the following, all of which are important [preceded by the word “kai”] stages of “great suffering” that one “must undergo”:


· One will “be rejected by the elders”.

· One will be rejected by “the chief priests”.

· One will be rejected by “the scribes”.

· One will “be killed”.

· One “after three days will arise”.


The lesson there, which Mark [thereby Peter too] knew, was becoming the Son [of God], in a body of flesh called “man, one of the human race” meant connecting to a source of knowledge and truth that was well beyond all scope of religious education. That which the “elders” had been taught to believe was wrong. That which prompted some from within the people to perform sacred rituals and preside over holy congregations was based on beliefs, not true faith. All that had been written divinely prior was misinterpreted, thus all which was written as how one should treat holy mysteries of text was half-truth, wild guesses, or outright lies. Therefore, possessing true knowledge of God and understanding sacred texts, as a mere mortal not sanctioned by a religious organization and its leaders, meant total rejection from that establishment, in a most unkind manner.


When Jesus then got to the point of saying “be killed,” the Greek word “apoktanthēnai” is written. That word can equally state “be put to death,” where the figurative usage means “be abolished” or “be extinguished.” That figurative meaning can be seen, relative to the series of rejections taught to be expected from the leaders of the Jews [taught to Jewish disciples], to mean a form of excommunication or the end of their ability to be called “Jews.” That becomes a lesson that the disciples , once they would become Sons of man, would lead to them no longer calling themselves Jews.


That then leads to Mark recalling Jesus saying, “after three days to arise.” Here, it becomes important to slow down the reading process in one’s brain, so one no longer sees that statement as if it solely means “after seventy-two hours have passed [the sum total in “three days”] one with then arise from having been dead.” When one reads very slowly, the following appears:


meta” – “in company with”

treis” – “three”

hēmeras” – “days”

anastēnai” – “to raise up.”


From these four words are found important statements that say: One’s soul will be joined with the Holy Spirit and be in company with God; one will no longer be alone, but one of three – the Father, the Holy spirit, and the Son; the darkness of death will be replaced with the sunlight of truth, where the light of Christ means one has been saved from the death of a world of matter; and, one’s soul will ascend to a heavenly state of being.


That last statement also means that the transformation in the flesh from being a Jew will rise in a new philosophy of life that will be named after the Messiah, called Christianity – where all members are reborn in the name of Jesus Christ. When those four words are read with that scope of meaning, which still allows for them to be prophetic of the near future in Jesus’ life, one then sees this lesson taught by Jesus has a very happy ending – for those who are good disciples and receive the Holy Spirit, becoming apostles [Judas Iscariot would not be one].


For anyone who has followed my interpretations in the past, it will be remembered how I have often said the Greek word “kai” is a marker word [much more than the conjunction “and”] that denoted importance follows. At every place where a bullet point marks [mine above] the different steps in this lesson, one can find that Mark wrote the word “kai.” That word must be seen as intended to show where close attention should be placed, more than as just a word that allows a brain to scoop up large quantities of words and make them something less than divine Scripture intended. To begin this series of verses, verse 31 begins with a capitalized “Kai,” stating how important it is to realize Jesus began to teach his disciples [denoted as “them” – “autous”]. In verses 31 and 32 there are six presentations of “kai,” meaning those two verses are packed with important things to know.


From the interpretation I have just presented, there will certainly be many who will reject what I have written, simply because others have not seen the same depth of meaning that I am proposing [exposing?]. This then becomes a prophecy fulfilled, as the lesson Jesus taught brings the expectation of scholarly rejection [“the scribes”]. Still, I do not feel alone, as the next verse [32] points out how Peter immediately rejected what Jesus said. While his rejection was from misunderstanding what Jesus taught [a common mistake, one still made today], Peter then becomes an example of how one should see oneself, rather than think one knows what these verses teach [about Jesus’ life bringing suffering].


When the NRSV says Mark next wrote, “He said all this quite openly,” the word translated as “openly” needs to be understood. That word is “parrēsia,” and rather than being the last word in this segment, it is the first, immediately following yet another “kai.” The word means “freedom of speech, confidence,” (Strong’s) but its usage relative to speech implies “boldness, confidence.” Here, one needs to recall the state of Jesus speaking in the synagogue in Capernaum [told in Mark's first chapter], as the Jews present said Jesus spoke with “authority” [“exousian”]. The same sense should be felt in Jesus teaching his disciples; so, rather than his words being expressed “openly,” they should be heard as being confidently stated, without any reason for anyone to question the truth they contain.


When we then read that Jesus had confidently made a series of teaching instruction to his students, Mark next said that Peter took Jesus aside and began to “rebuke” him. This must be seen as a more powerful statement than one student asking Jesus to speak with him for a moment, privately, because this series of words also begins with the word “kai.” The importance then makes Peter become the lesson himself, as a live demonstration of what Jesus had just taught means. Peter then reflected how the education system of the Jews had permeated their brains also, controlling the way they thought about the expectations set by the prophets.


This means Peter heard the words of Jesus in the same way Mark wrote them, which was written by design to make people who are not true disciples think in simple terms, which are false. Peter thought the prophets had forecast a Messiah that would overthrow the world powers [like the Romans] and return the lands of Israel and Judah to their rightful owners, because of a covenant made with God [long since broken, made null and void]. This way of thinking, based on the education of the Jewish leaders, meant [to Peter] Jesus had to be protected and kept alive, because he was seen [by his followers] as the one who would lead an uprising that would have God come and defeat their foes. Peter then spoke as one having in his brain everything that Jesus had just said [symbolically, thus misunderstood by Peter] was wrong and was not the path to take to obtain the redemption of souls.


When this rebuke by Peter has taken place, the NRSV has Mark writing, “But turning and looking at his disciples,” as if Jesus heard what Peter had to say, but then wanted to show him up in front of the other disciples. That is not that case, as the Greek words written are: “Ho de epistrapheis , kai idōn tou mathētas autou,” which literally says, “This [capitalized] now having turned , kai having perceived this disciples of him”.


The capitalization of “Ho” makes an important recognition of what Peter had just done, rebuking Jesus ["This"]. From that Second Aorist Passive Participle Nominative Singular Masculine form of the verb “epistrephó” [“to turn back, turn around, return”] becomes a statement that says: the student is rebuking the teach; and, that was the lesson of rejection all will face from standardized religion, so wrong will stand up to right as a way to destroy that which is righteous.


Following the marker of importance ["kai"], Mark then tells us that Jesus saw Peter was not the only one with his opinion. Not only had Peter turned away from receiving the teachings of Jesus, but Jesus perceived Peter was speaking for all of the disciples. Jesus then divinely knew they all wanted Jesus to stop talking about what they all thought was him predicting his own death.


When we then read that “[Jesus] rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things,” this was Jesus the rabbi [teacher] telling the student to get back in his seat. Once that rebuke was made [not knowing what private words were shared then], Jesus then confidently and probably loudly announced to all of his disciple, “Get behind me, Satan!”

Get behind me, Satan!


The thought that Jesus would identify Peter alone as the physical embodiment of Satan is giving Peter too much credit. Peter was just one disciple, who thought like all the other disciples, who all thought like the elders, chief priests and scribes. They all had an opinion that they thought was best, whether or not they knew how God felt about those opinions. This is then where one needs to return to the wilderness experience that Jesus had, where Satan did attempt to make Jesus give honor to his opinions and promises. Satan was told then (basically) the same thing. “Get behind me” says, “I lead. You follow.”


To Peter and all the twelve disciples, those words were a demand, spoken by Jesus as the voice of God coming through His Son. God spoke as Jesus, saying (in essence), “Stop having any role in my ministry, if you are not going to learn what I teach.”


When Jesus said, “For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things,” the same “human things” were offered after Jesus had finished forty days fasting. The promises of stones being bread and angels keeping one from harm and kingdoms of the earth to rule were all human things, just as was Peter and the eleven promising to keep Jesus safe from all those he named that would make him suffer. The “divine things” were his lessons of what they all would face in their graduation, becoming Sons of man.


By seeing how the story of verses 31 through 33 tell of twelve disciples being turned towards standard religious beliefs and past teachings by elders, priests-rabbis, and scribes, not hearing the meaning of what Jesus was teaching, we see that surrounding the class setting was the presence of others who followed Jesus, but were not officially his students. Because this continuous story is told with the same continuity by Matthew and Luke, the story being told by Luke says Mother Mary was one of the so-called “crowd” that Jesus called near to his disciples. Because the disciples had just proved to be as unknowing as the other followers – the ‘common people” [a translation possible of “ochlon”] – Jesus extended his teaching to all who were present.


At this point that all had come close enough to Jesus to hear his words, he said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” This translation of the NRSV is another that does not capture the full truth of what Jesus proposed.


The Greek word translated as “want” is “thelei,” which translates as “wills, wishes, desires, is willing, intends, or designs.” (Strong’s) A better choice would be “plans,” rather than “want to.” Next, the word translated as “to follow” is “elthein,” which translates as “to come, go.” Thus, Jesus states, “if anyone plans after me to come,” which needs to be read slowly again, as “if anyone plans … after me … [me] to come.”


That becomes a statement [and Saint Mark would have known the truth of this meaning] that says, “What I am about to say next is important, because there will be a time after me, and if you want to be me then … as a continuation of me in you … then listen up!”


At this point Jesus began teaching again, just as he had earlier about the expectations of becoming Jesus Christ reborn. Instead of telling about who will reject them and how one will die and be reborn, Jesus then said these instructions:


· Deny oneself.

· Raise up yourself as an upright stake not fallen over.

· Follow me.


Those three instructions stated in verse 34 are conditional, as the use of a capitalized “If” [“Ei”] states. That one word speaks loudly as Jesus telling those who had their own personal opinions about how to live their lives; and, at that point in time, those surrounding Jesus were thinking their ideas about the way things should be were better than those Jesus was teaching them. The “If” sets up the scenario that one is not asked to follow Jesus around, especially if the only reason is self-benefit. The “If” says plainly that the choice is each individual’s to make about salvation of one’s soul. Thus, “If” one wants to find redemption from one’s sins, then [like Jesus had just said about death-three-days-arise] one must “disown, repudiate, disregard” [all possible translations other than “deny” for “aparnēsasthō”] oneself.


To “deny” oneself means a figurative death of self-ego and self-will. Jesus had used words that taught the disciples must face rejection to the point of death as Jews. While Jesus would be punished to death in his physical body, that body would not truly be dead, because it would be resurrected. However, Jesus was not teaching his disciples about his physical death, but their own figurative death of self, which caused them to listen to Jesus teaching but reject what he told them. To be cleansed of their sins, they had to die of their old ways.


Now, I have written in the past about how Jesus did not tell all his followers that they must build a crucifixion cross out of lumber and kill themselves physically, as a means of self-denial. The Greek word “stauron” was commonly used [thus commonly heard in language use] as a statement about the stakes in the ground that the vines of grapes grew upon. The weight of good grapes would cause the stakes in a vineyard to lead over, allowing the clusters of grapes to hang down close to the ground. When low to the ground, animals could eat the grapes easier and the soil could cause the grapes to turn bad. Therefore, Jesus said their figurative deaths of self-ego must be followed by raising up the stakes that kept them all from being like Cain and rising up to a life that acts righteously.


Again, knowing this transformation was a ‘big IF,” since not all those hearing his words would do as Jesus said [Judas being one], Jesus said his disciples must rise to his state of being. Thus, after Jesus would die, resurrect, teach some more and then ascend, those choosing to do as Jesus taught then would be the next man up, as Jesus Christ reborn. Everyone listening was already following Jesus around physically; so there was no reason to tell them to “follow me” in human ways. The Greek word written by Mark [“akoloutheitō”] actually tells those followers “to attend” or “to accompany,” where the spiritual means a union of soul to Holy Spirit, accompanying Jesus Christ within their bodies of flesh. Still, to reach that state of being [the ‘big If’], one must get rid of self-importance, practice being righteous and ask God to let Jesus Christ be reborn within one’s soul.


After making those three stages of development be heard, Jesus then stated two scenarios that would be relative to the “if” condition, based on what each listener held dear. First, he said “if you desire to save your soul,” where the Greek word “psychēn” was written. Whereas the NRSV translates that word as “life,” as if the question was about saving a mortal life [a known state of being that would eventually no longer live in human flesh], the source of “life” is the “soul.” Thus, Jesus asked each to ponder “if you want to save your soul.”


When Jesus then said “you will lose it,” the word translated by the NRSV as “will lose” is “apolesei,” which also means “will destroy, will kill.” This becomes a return to the first step towards salvation of a soul, which is denial of self. That means to save a soul one must kill that which imprisons that soul with sin. This is not a scenario of killing one’s flesh [suicide], but one stating as instructed – self-denial.


Jesus then supplied a scenario that was relative to one choosing to deny self, such that it was to allow one’s body of flesh to receive the Holy Spirit and become reborn as a Son of man [the “me” of Jesus] and to do so for the purpose of becoming an extension of “the good news of the Messiah” [from “euangeliou”]. If one made that choice, then that one was promised to have saved his [or her] soul by having raised his [or her] stake to a righteous state of life, following as a line of Jesuses in the world [the true “Gospel”].


After having restated his lesson for all ears to hear, Jesus then asked his followers two questions:


1. What does it gain a human being to inherit all the wealth of a material world, if finding that profit means a soul condemned to an eternity of loss?


2. What is a soul worth, when measured in physical things?


Those questions are rhetorical, when one knows they are asking about spiritual goals, not human ones. Everything gained in the material world will be left behind at physical death; but a soul sold for such temporal gains will pay the price of eternal loss. Therefore, the obvious answer says nothing material is worth eternal sacrifice.


When the NRSV has Jesus finish this lesson to his followers by having him say, “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels,” the issue at hand is embarrassment felt by a body of flesh that surrounds an eternal soul. All of the brains that thought Jesus should bite his tongue and stop saying things about death were doing nothing more than acting as the prison guards of a captive soul. It is the flesh that teaches the soul to sin. Thus, it was the flesh of the followers that was ashamed for everything done in the past that was keeping all of them from having their souls saved from that control.


That means the lesson of Jesus about sacrifice meant self-denial of the flesh’s influences. The stake of righteousness had fallen over and any fruit the disciples and others had produced was being eaten by the lowlifes of the world. They were doing nobody any good, least of all their own souls. Any shame felt in feeling guilt from being unable to raise themselves upright was because they all knew how difficult it was to be righteous in an unrighteous [an “adulterous and sinful”] world [“generation”]. To forego the lesson of Jesus and to continue onward as a soul chained to the lusts and desires of a body of flesh meant the time would certainly come when the soul would be freed from its prison of flesh, only to stand naked and afraid before the judgment of God. At that point, all who had felt ashamed of doing what Jesus said to do would feel the wrath of Jesus advising God to let those souls pay for their choice to sin.


Now, I cannot fathom anyone who considers himself or herself a Christian could read the words of this Gospel reading and not come away with the insight that Jesus spoke to us today, because we too live in an “adulterous and sinful generation.” Not only do the sheep who meander into church pews on Sunday [when COVID19 allows that possibility to happen], but also the leaders of those religions considering their organizations as “Christian,” they all routinely feel too ashamed of Jesus to actually become Jesus Christ reborn. They vehemently reject anyone [like me] who thinks that is a possibility.


Modern Christianity has become the fulfillment of what Jesus taught in the Gospel reading, because our brains [a material-flesh organ] have been filled with the teachings of the religions, who [like the elders, high priests, and scribes] see it as much easier to let Jesus be a one-of-a-kind, which no one can ever duplicate [even though Christianity was created by Apostles reborn in the name of Jesus Christ – all being Jesus reborn].


It is so much easier to believe all one has to do is sit and wait for death to come naturally, at which point Jesus will wrap our souls up in his spiritual arms and take us to the Father’s house, where there will be rooms for Episcopalians, rooms for Catholics, rooms for Buddhists, rooms for anyone who ever lived, with none of them ever being required to do anything to have their souls saved. It is a philosophy created by embarrassment to admit, “I read the words, but I still have no clue what they really mean.”


This is what makes understanding that Jesus is threatening your soul with a judgment that says, “Jesus will tell God about your soul – ‘I do not know you.’” For Jesus to know one, one has to follow the instructions he gave in this reading: sacrifice self-ego, act righteously, become reborn in the name of Jesus as the Christ. One has to be Jesus to know Jesus.


If one cannot see that in this Gospel reading, then one is too blind to see the truth. Not realizing the message of this Gospel reading means one knows the love of sin [i.e.: being one with Satan] rather than know the peace of salvation [i.e.: being one with Jesus Christ].


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As a Gospel selection for the second Sunday of Lent, which is a season of self-denial, when one should be practicing righteous ways [something much greater than giving up smoking], the lesson here says Lent is when one’s soul will be tested for faithfulness [not simply beliefs].


When Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him for talking crazy, Peter must be seen as a reflection of all who think becoming Jesus – through death and resurrection and ascension – is crazy talk. If one’s brain has led one to think like Peter, then one is being led around like a bull with a nose ring by Satan. One is too weak or too ashamed to tell Satan to serve God, by getting out of the way of His Sons of man.


Lent must be realized as that kind of soul testing for eternal salvation, not some brief period of time of possible limitations, a time that endlessly repeats, year after year, with nothing ever permanently changing.