In today’s passage Jesus and his followers are traveling around and he asks them who people say that he is. They respond with various answers: John the Baptist, Elijah returned, one of the prophets. He then asks who they say he is and Peter says, “You are the Messiah.”
He tells them not to tell anyone and explains that he will suffer many things–that he will not be accepted by the leaders and that he will be killed and rise again after three days.
Peter takes him aside and criticizes him (like a friend might criticize another for being negative, I suppose). But Jesus rebuked him saying, “Get away from me, Satan! You don’t care about the same things God does. You care only about things that people think are important.”
Jesus tells the crowd they have to stop thinking only of themselves. He tells them to save the life they have, they must lose it. They must take up the cross to follow him. “It is worth nothing for you to have the whole world if you yourself are lost.You could never pay enough to buy back your life.”
This whole passage very much puts the focus on Jesus as Messiah. But it also puts the focus on our response to the Messiah. Who do we say that Jesus is? Do we live as though we know Jesus is the Messiah? Do we take up our cross to follow him?
We are to deny ourselves and sacrifice in following him. I don’t think this means that we are called to hate ourselves but that we are called to love others and to be unselfish in our love. What does this mean in your community? Who is your neighbor?
We really see the themes of Lent in today’s passage. Jesus is teaching his followers that he will suffer and will not be accepted by elite leaders and priests. He tells them he will die. But Peter doesn’t like this teaching and basically scolds Jesus for saying such things. Jesus responds, “Get away from me, Satan! You don’t care about the same things God does. You care only about things that people think are important.” Ouch. Peter is one of his most devoted followers, but even he does not understand–perhaps cannot understand until after Easter.
Then Jesus goes to call his followers to him and tells them:
Any of you who want to be my follower must stop thinking about yourself and what you want. You must be willing to carry the cross that is given to you for following me.Any of you who try to save the life you have will lose it. But you who give up your life for me and for the Good News will save it.It is worth nothing for you to have the whole world if you yourself are lost.You could never pay enough to buy back your life.
So we continue to observe Lent as a time of self-sacrifice, discovery, and heart preparation. We must be willing to carry the cross–meaning to give up ourselves and follow Jesus. What is getting in the way of our service to God and to others?
I like this thought from Conversations With Scripture: The Gospel of Mark by Marcus J. Borg:
The way of the cross is about life and death; to avoid it in order to save one’s life is to lose one’s life, and to embrace it is to save one’s life. The path of death is the path of life.
I love a good paradox and I love to let it speak for itself. Dwell on this paradox.
Jesus tells his disciples that he has to go to Jerusalem, where he will suffer and be killed, then he will rise from the dead. Wow, can you imagine how that came across? How do you think you would have reacted to that? Well, we know Peter’s reaction: “God save you from those sufferings, Lord! That will never happen to you!”
Jesus rebukes him harshly, “Get away from me, Satan! You are not helping me! You don’t care about the same things God does. You care only about things that people think are important.” (These quotes are from the Easy-to-Read version here.) Ouch, he called him Satan! I don’t think Jesus was implying Peter was literally possessed by Satan or anything, but more that he is speaking against God and what God wants at this moment. Remember that just last week we read about Peter being called the Rock on which the church will be built. What a change to this story! It happens to all of us–faithful and loving one time, failing and wrong another time. Meanwhile he just wants Jesus to not die, which doesn’t seem so awful to our human eyes. It seems Peter understand Jesus was the Messiah, but not all that might mean.
Jesus goes on to say the following:
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 will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?