33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 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.’
This text in Mark’s telling of Jesus is a bit like what happened at the Australian Open final trophy presentation last Sunday evening. The official person was speaking of the greatness of the occasion and thanking the people involved. All was going well. But the speaker mentioned the Government’s effort in these pandemic times and the roll out of the vaccine, and the speaker stumbled into the unhappy boos and latent anger of the community. They let those things be known on national TV. What seemed to so nice and comfortable became a little uncomfortable and a little embarrassing. No one knew quite what to do.
Neither did Peter this day. Jesus has been doing and saying many things. Now he speaks again, but the mood changes. It was going so well. Now we are not sure where it is going. It was comfortable. Now it is not.
All of a sudden, being a follower of Jesus takes a turn for the hard. It could hurt. It will cost him. It could cost us. It could cost a lot.
His speaking of his suffering and death disrupts happily going to church on Sunday and dislodges the view that being Christian is being a good person and being with other like-minded ‘good people’. Jesus seems to think it is way more than that. He seems to suggest that following him will require much more than that.
All of a sudden, the stakes are much higher. Being a Christian is not merely a comfortable affiliation with God and other Christians to enjoy, but a calling to enter Jesus’ mission that will not always be enjoyable.
And what is his mission that will cost him and us? To give life to a dying world. To bring healing, justice and new life to a broken dying world that mostly does believe it is broken or dying. It is bringing this unflinchingly, knowing that the powers in charge will mostly not like this. They will most often dismiss it or twist it to make it harmless or just want your head for it!
Jesus gets pretty specific. He says he will suffer rejection and ultimately lose his life. Why so?
Not because he would enjoy suffering or dying, but because he wants to bring life. For that he will suffer and die. Whatever the cost, he will be faithful to his Father’s healing mission; he will not stop giving life; he will be unflinching in his mission to welcome and reconcile sinners into his new creation.
He is unwilling to cease in his mission to heal and restore sinners. He knows this undermines the power and place of sinners in power. They have their own vision of what life is. It is very different from God’s vision. The two will collide.
Peter voices that human vision of life. He can only see human power to control.
In his telling Jesus off for such silly words, Peter can only hear Jesus talk of new creation and new kingdom in terms of winning a political war, fighting a military fight, winning and argument, dominating an opposition.
To be fair on Peter and the others, they have been on the winning team so far. They mostly have been welcomed wherever they have followed Jesus.
They have witnessed a great deal of local fanfare, with crowds of mostly peasant villagers swarming to Jesus in order to witness and receive his healing powers (eg. Mark 2:1; 3:7-10; 4:1; 6:53-56).
And when local leaders have opposed Jesus, he always beats them in the debate (Mark 2:6-12; 3:22-27; 7:1-13). Surely, we can see how the disciples might be seeing their future, as Jesus’ closest privileged followers, through rose-colored glasses.
We find out that Jesus’ way of being Messiah; of saving the world, is not what Peter knows. It is way beyond any human power or politics or winning and losing in the human way.
Peter does seem to know something though. He knows that he and Jesus are now linked. Like your phone to your car stereo, what happens to one happens to the other.
What Jesus experiences will affect Peter forever. He seems to get the weight of Jesus’ dark words here. Following Jesus will include this kind of hardship; it will exact this kind of personal cost.
Following Jesus will be not always some comfortable friendly affiliation between friends, or even between teacher and student. Following Jesus will be carrying that same relentless unyielding mission to bring his healing, life, renewal and new creation into people’s lives.
That is what will cost: Jesus’ mission to bring healing and life to those who don’t deserve it and could never earn it. Every follower needs to be comfortable not with being comfortable but with being carriers; carriers of Jesus’ new life and healing for a dying community.
Being a disciple is participating in Jesus’ unflinching commitment and action to love, to bring life, to operate in his servant sacrifice for others, no matter their label or problem or agreed ‘worthiness’.
Peter is strongly challenged by this. I am strongly challenged by this. Truth is that I usually want to save my life from this disruptive calling and find it hard to believe that my self-saving is actually self-losing and will ensure that I eventually lose my life in God.
I am human and I have human eyes. There are plenty of times when I want to gain the world and place myself in the place of giving up my life in the Father, Son and Spirit.
I have known many times this word of challenge from Jesus. How about you?
I thank Jesus for these words, though. Not because I like them at any time, but because of what I know he will do from this day with Peter, and for what he has done by his Spirit in his Word everyday since. He gives me his concerns, his heart, his mission, his life in mine. He has saved my life and still does.
Everything he says here to his friends, will indeed happen. He will relentlessly love and welcome and give. He will give everything he can and everything he is, and it will cost him everything it possibly could.
He will deny himself for me and take up that heavy cross of my comfortable sin and follow that evil foe up that hill of pain for me.
He will lose his life to save mine.
Now I know in my soul that it is really silly to gain the whole world because that might mean giving up your very life in Jesus.
Now I know to my bones that I cannot give to him anything in exchange for my life. My only hope is in not in paying back anything for his saving of my life but living in that sheer gift with all my life.
Now I know that despite my spasmodic efforts in boldly and proudly bearing his name and telling his story, he will not be ashamed of me.
Just like he fully restored Peter and the others and billions of sinners since, Jesus has restored me. In that font and in his body the church, he has buried me once and raised me once. Same for you. He will raise us finally and completely as he was that first Easter.
You have been raised with Jesus. This is not so you get to win or dominate others. You are a Christian. You are called to participate with him in his unflinching mission to resurrect the world, one day at a time until his final day.
That is why we pay the cost. That is why we are not merely a comfortable club of like-minded associates, but a mission outpost in a dying world gladly bearing his name and bringing his life to anyone from anywhere.
If that is what makes “Christianity” the object of hostility, then we are standing in a long line of faith-filled people of God, many of whom have paid all kinds of costs for their life in Jesus.
I pray that we will not put up with anything that restricts his mission in us. I pray we will not settle for a comfortable life that withholds the restoration of broken, dying, alienated and isolated people.
I pray that by faith in this Jesus we can be uncomfortable as we gladly surrender to Jesus and his mission knowing what it can cost you, and view being church as being a community of followers carrying this new life.
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him –
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!
(1st + 3rd of Month)
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