38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
9 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
(Mark 8:38-9:1 NIV)
In the previous passages, Jesus has just spoken of what it means for Him to be Messiah, and what it means for anyone to follow Him. In verse 35, Jesus spoke the truth wrapped in a paradox – if anyone wanted to save their life, they had to give it up, to lose it. Conversely, if someone tried to preserve their life, they would ultimately lose it.
Verse 38 in today’s passage is a restatement and reinforcement of verse 35. While Jesus has just been speaking clearly about His upcoming mistreatment, betrayal, and ultimately, His death, He now speaks confidently about His return in authority and victory.
Jesus was not bragging; He was speaking with the full assurance of what was to come. Notice that Jesus refers to Himself as “me” and “my words” in the first part of verse 38, speaking of the “here and now” of that day. He then uses the phrase “Son of Man” when He speaks of the future. Remember that Jesus uses the “Son of Man” phrase to refer to Himself. So the first and second parts of verse 38 are referring to the same person – Jesus.
Although there is a chapter break between 8:38 and 9:1, there is no break of thought. Verse 1 begins with the word “And”, signifying that this was all part of the same conversation, the same thought.
When we first take a look at verse 1, it seems as if Jesus is speaking of His second coming. While Jesus does point to the future, it’s not His imminent return that we still long for today.
Jesus is looking ahead to two different events: 1) to the day when Christianity will sweep across the nations, and 2) to an event even closer in time, His transfiguration on the mountaintop.
Jesus said that some of those listening to Him would not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power. As we follow history and read the Book of Acts from the Bible, we see that Jesus’ prediction was right. After Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, Christianity spread throughout the region. In the next thirty years or so, the number of people following Jesus went from twelve men in the little fishing village of Capernaum to thousands across Asia Minor, Egypt, Rome, and Greece.
Jesus was also referring to His upcoming transfiguration when He said that some would see the kingdom of God come with power. All three synoptic gospel writers include this same phrase (captured as chapter 9, verse 1 in Mark’s gospel) to introduce the scene where Jesus is momentarily revealed for who He truly is. We’ll see that in our next time together.
In these two verses, Mark skilfully weaves the dual themes of concealment and revelation, of promise and fulfillment into the narrative.
May we live for Christ in our here and now, knowing that there is more and better yet to come.
May we expectantly look forward to His return, remaining faithful to Him and His calling until that day.