After teaching his disciples plainly and in parables, after showing them miracles of healing and forgiveness, and after sending them off to do likewise, Jesus asks the Twelve who they think he is. Peter answers in good doctrinal form, "You are the Christ" (Mark 8:29).
His apostles may understand that Jesus is the messiah, but they have their own ideas of what a messiah ought to be. They do not yet realize that the salvation Christ will bring is not an easy victory. They have not yet connected Jesus with the figure of the suffering servant in Isaiah.
Mark wanted his own community to understand this connection. It took the Twelve a long time to comprehend it, so Mark repeats the point three separate times between chapters 8-10. Each time, Jesus tells the apostles that the messiah must suffer and die, with clear implications that they must do the same. Each time they miss the point and, in fact, they do the opposite.
Our first "pope," Peter, had the right doctrine in words, but no intention of changing his career track. He was thinking of success the way most people do and wanted to use Jesus to get there. But Jesus told Peter and the apostles that the real way to succeed is quite different: "Anyone who wants to be a follower of mine has to put self aside, shoulder his or her cross, and go the way that I go. Whoever holds onto his or her life will lose it. But whoever lets go of his or her life for my sake and the Gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:34-35). More and more people today are finally beginning to understand that this is not a call to willful or heroic asceticism, but something that demands much more of the ego. The self we need to let go of is our falsely concocted identity so that the True Self, or the self we eternally are in God, can then naturally emerge.
It is almost that simple and always that hard. We are attached to our personas, careers, masks, and agendas. They do not die easily--and yet they surely will!