... continued from Friday
We have some significant clues that there was somewhat of a disconnect between the expectations of Jesus' disciples and followers and how things actually played out. For example, the Synoptic Gospels show us that Jesus' audiences expected the kingdom to come almost right away. They believed that Jesus' earthly ministry would culminate right then in his earthly kingship and the restoration of Israel (e.g., Acts 1:6). So Jesus' disciples probably did not know at first that they would live out the rest of their lives on the mission without Jesus on earth. Mark shows them repeatedly asking Jesus about their roles in the coming kingdom with no sense at all that Jesus was about to die.
First, it is apparently not until the end of Jesus' earthly ministry that his identity as messiah comes out into the open with his disciples. It seems to be just before Jesus finally heads for Jerusalem that Jesus really raises with them the question of his identity and his explicit role in the kingdom (Mark 8:27-33). It is at this point that Peter for the first time confesses openly what he no doubt had suspected for a long time, that Jesus is the messiah.
Jesus agrees with them. He is the "anointed one," the messiah--"christos in Greek." To everyone's ears, this means he will become king and will rule over Israel.
But then Jesus shocks them. He is going to Jerusalem to die (Mark 8:31). Peter immediately rejects this suggestion. That's not what the "anointed one" does, Peter is thinking. The messiah doesn't die; he becomes king. Peter has no sense of Jesus' impending death, let alone a two thousand year lag in time between Jesus' earthly ministry and the coming kingdom on earth.
Two more times in Mark Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to die amid their complete lack of understanding. Just after Jesus tells them a second time that he is going to die, they argue over who will have the most prominent role in the coming restored kingdom of Israel (Mark 9:34). This happens even a third time. Jesus tells them what is coming and immediately thereafter, James and John ask Jesus for the most prominent seats next to Jesus in his coming kingdom on earth (Mark 10:35-40).
It seems a fair enough conclusion that the disciples might have thought Jesus' triumphal entry to Jerusalem was going to be the beginning of his rule on earth. Peter's denials were surely more about his complete confusion than any cowardice on his part. He was probably ready to fight for Jesus, just not prepared for Jesus to surrender himself and be arrested. They apparently did not expect Jesus to die.
His resurrection also seems to have taken them by surprise. The women at the tomb are so flustered and confused by the absence of his body, they don't tell anyone at first (Mark 16:8). And once the disciples are convinced, they resume thinking that Jesus is about to restore the earthly kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). So Jesus' death and resurrection seem completely off the radar of Jesus' closest followers.
From these observations in Mark, probably the earliest gospel, we conclude that the bulk of Jesus' message and proclamation of the good news was not about him. It was about what God the Father was doing...