Second Sunday in Lent

Mark 8:31-38 (NRSV) Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Having spent most of much of my life in baptist churches, there was no observation of the season of Lent. Of course, there were special services to help us reflect on Good Friday and celebrate on Easter Sunday. However, an entire season of weeks and Sundays of preparation for the Passion was not part of my experience until the last handful of years.

I have come to appreciate the slow build-up toward the final week of Jesus earthly ministry. And today's reading was a turning point in the Gospel of Mark when the disciples were for the first time brought in on what would be ahead for Jesus. Thus, part I was the briefing for the disciples and part II was Jesus message for the crowds.

For the disciples ...

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

One wonders what the scene was like when these words rang out? Did the room fall into complete silence and one could hear the proverbial pin drop? Or was the room buzzing with conversation as to what is Jesus talking about?

But clearly wasn't what they expected!

And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

Good old Peter! Did the other disciples tell him, hey, you better go talk to Jesus! Or perhaps, Peter acted alone impulsively acting on his own but knowing the rest of the group felt the same way? In Peter's mind and in the disciples' minds, they figured, we are going to win! Jesus is gathering up all these supporters and we are going to throw off the religious and political oppressors! What is all this negative talk, Jesus?

But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." 

Peter may have privately talked to Jesus but Jesus' response was for the whole group. If you have been reading along, Satan appeared in the text for the First Sunday of Lent. Satan is the adversary, the opponent, and wants to oppose God's plans. Jesus strongly called out Peter for being a tool of Satan by trying to derail the mission of Christ that included suffering, rejection, and being killed. Of course,  if you look closely at the text, there was a fourth part to Jesus' statement: after three days rise again. One could suppose that Peter and the disciples just heard the three bad things and didn't hear the "rest of the story!"

For the crowds ...

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers ...

The various miracles and the teachings of Jesus had drawn a crowd but how much commitment was there? Jesus lays down the cost of discipleship for the crowds to weigh. And, it would probably be fair to say, he needed to the disciples to think it through too!

deny themselves ...
take up their cross ...
follow me ...
save their life will lose it ...
lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it ...
gain the whole world and forfeit their life ...

The "status quo" of our lives is to seek our own benefit, avoid suffering, follow the beat of our own drummer (if we have a "western" mindset) or the path marked by our kin group (if we have a more "old world" mindset), self preservation, and acquire stuff.

Is the call to discipleship worth it?

What would Jesus do? Or rather, what did Jesus do?

Jesus denied himself, went to the Cross, followed the Father's will, and in so doing, he lost his life for our sake to give us life and after three days rose again!

This is the Gospel, this is the good news: Jesus has changed the "status quo." His work is freely given, complete and costly. Now the question for us: will we follow?

And by what I mean by follow is not a follow in order to be saved as that would be self-righteousness. And besides, we could never follow good enough anyway. But a following that is humble and trusting that grows out our gratitude and love because of his love for us.

Lent is a time for us to reflect on the work of Christ. It is also a time for us to think about and commit or re-commit ourselves to following him.



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