Immediately after Peter’s confession of Christ as the Messiah, our Lord “strictly charged [the disciples] to tell no one about him” (Mark 8:30). He did not make this charge, however, because He disagreed with the confession of faith. Note that Jesus did not say, “Do not tell anyone that I am the Messiah because I am not the Messiah.” Instead, to paraphrase our Lord, He said, “Do not tell anyone that I am the Messiah even though I really am the Messiah.”
Of course, that was not the first time that Christ forbade people to spread the word about Him (see Mark 1:40–45; 7:31–36). We have seen that the reason for this order seems to have been that most of the Jews had incomplete expectations about what the Messiah would do. They rightly believed that the Messiah would reign over them in righteousness (Isa. 9:7), but they did not understand that His path to the throne would pass through the valley of suffering and death. In fact, Jesus knew that idea would be anathema to most Jews. To proclaim Him as Messiah at the wrong time would create problems for His mission and encourage people to persist in their misunderstanding. So, He forbade His disciples to call Him Messiah publicly.
As we will see, Peter’s response to what Jesus says in today’s passage helps to confirm our interpretation. But for our purposes here, let us note what Christ says about His messianic vocation and what His being the Savior means. His words in Mark 8:31 indicate that this calling includes both sovereignty and suffering—sovereignty because Jesus is the “Son of Man,” who Daniel says will have dominion over all the kingdoms of this world (Dan. 7:13–14), and suffering in the form of being rejected and murdered. Mark 8:31 indicates that the suffering must come first—only after Jesus is handed over to the authorities to be executed can He be resurrected and enthroned as King of kings and Lord of lords (see Phil. 2:5–11).
Jesus taught the path from His humiliation to exaltation “plainly” (Mark 8:32a). He was insistent that He had to suffer. This death, we learn later in Mark 10:45, was the only means by which the price for our sin could be paid. Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary Mark: “The Father had determined that the Son would suffer, be rejected, and ultimately be killed to redeem His people from God’s righteous wrath against their sin. The punishment for sin before almighty God was death, and if Jesus was to save His people, it would be necessary for Him to make full payment for their sin.”