Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have [its] perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4 (NASB)
Hymn: "At Calvary" William R. Newell, Daniel B. Towner
Jesus knew what awaited Him in Jerusalem. Luke tells us that "he set his face to go to Jerusalem," knowing full well what would happen there (Luke 9:51b, ESV). We know that He knew, not only because we trust in His divine foresight, but because He told His disciples what was coming.
And He began 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 be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it."
Mark 8:31-35 (NASB)
In Mark 8, cited above, Jesus asks the disciples who everyone else says that He is, then asks who they believe He is, then celebrate's Peter's recognition that He is the Christ. Then He begins to explain what lies ahead, and Peter stands against it, and Jesus condemns that response and resumes teaching. Now, I don't actually believe that Jesus was changing the topic when He began explaining His upcoming death. What I mean by that is that, while it is widely recognized that this was all one conversation, I've heard very few attempts to connect Jesus' coming death with His questions about everyone's perception of His identity.
I submit that this is what Jesus was talking about the whole time. His questions highlighted the expectations of the people around Jesus, and how He was subverting them. He wasn't living up to what people expected of John the Baptist, but He was kinda close. He spoke like a prophet but seemed to have authority beyond theirs. He met some of the expectations of the returning Elijah, but even that didn't quite stack up. He slipped into a number of categories of what the world was expecting, but He didn't quite fit in any of them, and so people didn't know what to do with Him.
The answer, of course, was that He was the awaited Messiah, but there was a reason that didn't make the list of outside interpretations: the Messiah they were expecting really had very little in common with the Jesus that walked among them. And this is where the next part of the conversation goes. Peter, having confessed that Jesus is the Christ, is suddenly being confronted with the realization that even his own ideas of what that means are being subverted. He was close enough to see the Christ in Jesus, but not yet close enough to realize what that meant for his notions of a Christ. Jesus sets about removing false notions and replacing them with truth, Peter pushes back, and Jesus makes a very firm rebuke that forces him to listen. He then continues subverting expectations, talking about laying down one's life, taking up crosses, standing beside the Christ not in worldly victory but in suffering.
And we can enter into that suffering without shame, looking forward in joy. James notes above that our trials should be treated as occasions for joy, not because of what they are, but because of who we will be on the other side of them. Jesus, who set his face "as flint," as described in Isaiah 50:7, can also claim the surrounding lines that He would not be disgraced or ashamed; even when tortured, put on public display, stripped, hung on a cross as a reproach both from the Romans and from His religious environment (after all, any hung from a tree were accursed), Jesus could come through without disgrace because He knew what awaited on the other side.
Jesus knew what death awaited Him, and He knew what victory He would claim over it. And as such, He could go forth, confident in the knowledge that no trial or disgrace He faced on this earth would surpass the riches in glory He would receive after it. And we, who have died with Christ and share in His sufferings and His victory, can look forward with the same joy and confidence that He had, regardless of what shame the world tries to lay on us, because we too shall some day be on the other side of death.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation