March 12, 2006 - Year B - Lent 2

Mark 8:31-38

31 Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed and after three days rise again. 32 Jesus said all this quite openly, so that Peter took him aside and began to protest strongly. 33 But Jesus turning around, and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter saying, “Get behind me Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

 34 Then Jesus called the people and his disciples and said, “If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. 35 For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; and if you lose your life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, you will save it.

36 What good is it to gain the whole world but destroy yourself? 37 There is nothing you can give to recover your life. 38 I tell you: If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words among this adulterous and sinful people, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the Glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

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Notes from [The Community Christian Bible

Jesus had to suffer (v. 31), because this is the fate of sinners. He had to suffer and be rejected by the authorities, because this is the destiny of those who proclaim the truth. He had to freely go to his death because self-sacrifice is the only means for the salvation of the world.

• 34. It is necessary to lose oneself:

– to lose oneself like Abraham, who in his old age went to strange lands;

– to lose oneself like Moses, who agreed to be the leader of an irresponsible people;

– to lose oneself like Mary, who entered a path wherein no one could understand or help her;

– to rid oneself of this temporary existence so as to be reborn of God, like Ignatius the martyr. Condemned to be eaten by lions, he said, “I am the wheat of God; may I be ground by the teeth of wild animals to be converted into the pure bread of Christ. My passions are crucified in me; there is no carnal fire that can burn me; a fountain has sprouted in me that murmurs and speaks from within: come to the Father.”

Take up your cross (v. 34). Jesus tells us that to follow him is to follow the same path that took him to the cross. To reach maturity it is necessary to renounce our life; in other words, we must risk ourselves for something noble instead of being concerned about our own future; we must find a life-style that will help us excel in the way of love; and we must accept that our life may be a failure according to others’ way of thinking (Lk 17:33; Jn 12:23-25).

Taking up our cross by accepting freely the sacrifices that the Father sends each day, we receive from that moment something even more marvelous than what was sacrificed: inner freedom and more profound happiness (Mk 10:30).

Think of what Jesus says: from me, for me, and not: from God, for God. For God has come in the person of Jesus to knock on our door and to propose to us very specific commitments.

If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words (v. 38). The believer who follows the words of Christ without fear of what may be asked of her is attacked without mercy by many who call themselves Christians. For we live in the midst of an adulterous people, in other words, people who without verbally denying God, in fact, serve other gods (Mt 6:24; Jn 8:42).

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Comments by Wesley

1. "Precisely in its confessional piety, ... faith is mindful not of the divine way but of the human way. The 'humanity' which it regards is, of course, a religious human, a humanity addicted to religious legitimacy. This has already been clarified by Jesus when he demonstrated that religion was an evasion of God, and so a human tradition which substitutes itself for the divine command to do justice and love mercy. It is precisely this reversal that is recalled here when Jesus accuses Peter of standing on the side of a religiously corrupted humanity rather than on the side of the divine humanism of the 'son of man.' The humanity with which Peter sides here is not the humanity that suffers and is abused and destroyed, but the 'humanity' of the pious who accuse the sinner, who uphold tradition against God, who prefer the security of religion to the insecurity of the merciful and just. It is the 'humanity' of the 'chief priests and elders' that Peter is in danger of supporting rather than the divine justice for broken humanity demonstrated by Jesus. And, precisely because it is a religious siding against God, it is satanic. It is satanic because it subverts faith, perverts it and makes of it a magic talisman for the finding of security and success within the world." [from The Insurrection of the Crucified by Theodore W. Jennings]

A confusion about what is religious and what is humane gets us in trouble, time after time. Too often we are willing to chose that which has the feel of religious piety over that which builds up and transforms and move humanity along toward being more obviously an image of the divine. Confusion at this point reaps a whirlwind.

2. Here is another translation of 8:35. It is from Provoking the Gospel of Mark by

"You want to save your life?
You will always lose it.
But when any of you loses your life,
for my sake or for the sake of the gospel,
you will save it."

I like the finality of the statement, "You will always lose it." This places the choice of what we are going to do with the opportunities we have, squarely before us.

This call is to folks who have come to see they have nothing left to lose.

3. Nikos Kazantzakis writes of The Last Temptation of Christ. Here we have an intermediary temptation that follows up on the tradition of a post-baptismal, wilderness temptation. This temptation is strong as it comes from one's spiritual family. This is not theory, but the pain of anticipated loss of a loved one. This call not to die has kept more than one person hanging on and on past any reasonable graceful letting go.

Members of one's spiritual family can not only be of great comfort and challenge, but be a great temptation to not go too far ahead. We can all too easily do one another in with our attachments. Yet, who can live without such attachments. This is an important text for us to wrestle with.

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