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You are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

In the first eight chapters of Mark’s gospel, Jesus had told parables (Mark 4), cured troubled people (Mark 5:1-20), returned a dead girl to life (Mark 5:21-42), walked on water (Mark 6:45), fed the 4,000 with seven loaves and two fish. (Mark 8) And just before this gospel, he cured a deaf man (Mark 7:32-36) and gave sight to a blind person (Mark 8:22-26)

In a world before social media, word of mouth about Jesus’ wonderful works and about how he opened new possibilities had spread…

….and so did questions about his identity. Recall that his own townsfolk rejected him (Mark 6:1-6)… is this not the carpenter,  the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.

The Scribes and Pharisees chided him for not keeping purity laws

Then he asked his disciples, Who do people say that I am? Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’


Rather than celebrating Peter’s recognition, Jesus told them to tell no one. Then he dropped the bombshell that we hear at the beginning of this morning’s gospel

…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.

If words can cause whiplash these words did. In particular the force of impact was from the great suffering …and be killed.

After months of miracles and teaching, as his popularity was growing they hadn’t seen this coming.

It is also apparent that they didn’t hear the conclusion ….and after 3 days rise again…or perhaps they couldn’t get their heads around it.


Jesus’ statement raises the same questions for us as it did with Peter who took him aside and began to rebuke him.

Peter was blinded by his own preconceptions. Suffering, rejection and death were not his version of the Messiah. Peter seems to have thought that the future held prestige, power and military might.


Jesus had come to redeem humanity that was suffering the consequences of Adam’s sin. One of those consequences was a misperception of reality. As Jesus told Peter you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

Among those misperceptions was that human life was the ultimate good. Jesus said as much in his semitic way…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.

Jesus would share fully in our humanity by entering into cruel suffering betrayal, rejection and death and demonstrate that he would not only pass through it but triumph.

He didn’t say that the cross was good. He said it was inevitable…and that avoidance was not a viable strategy…those who want to save their life will lose it

He DID say that passing through the suffering was good… and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. Paradoxically, in Christ, life is found in death.

It was, and remains, a difficult truth that we profess in both the Apostles and Nicene creeds…“I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting’… or ‘the life of the world to come”


Let’s take another step back. During Lent, we consider: how is Christ calling us to discipleship? What is it for us to take up the cross?  

Each of us is unique, and has our own call. But make no mistake, each of us is called.

We can come to appreciate that call through scripture and reflecting on the life of Christ. We could come to it through prayer and looking at how we become more Christlike in our daily interactions with people. We might come to it through the example of others whose lives light the way.

We appreciate the mystery of suffering by entering, voluntarily, into some forms of denial or activity that stretches us spiritually, that leaves us with a greater sense of being whole and healthy. In these acts we die to our appetites, to our false notions of security, to our sense of self-righteousness.

As Jesus expressed it, the cross is not a barrier but a key to a full life.

This is not masochism. Rather it is a realistic look at the nature of the human condition which inevitably involves suffering. But the other side of the suffering is peace and relationship with our God-parent.

I have seen persons who suffered agonizing illnesses. While God didn’t prevent their pain he did give them the peace of knowing that they were held in the love of God even as they were embracing their cross of pain.

I’ve also known people who suffer from debilitating psychological afflictions for whom faith compliments their medications and offers solace in knowing they share this with Christ’s own desolation on the cross.


Our own culture’s misunderstandings include beliefs that

·      Wealth brings happiness.

·      War brings peace

·      The good life is about self-indulgence

·      Anger establishes right relationships

·       Life is the ultimate good. (Recall that Jesus said that those who would save their lives will lose it)

Jesus did not save the world by feeding everyone miraculously or curing every sick person on earth. That was not the salvation he promised. His miracles were only signs of his power not the full extent of his work. He brought salvation by passing through his own death on the cross.

Taking up our crosses means taking a deep dive into our assumptions about the nature of our lives and what salvation means. This gospel challenges us to ask, “What makes me uncomfortable in these words?”  Don’t be put off by the fact that they are hard to accept. You have Peter and Jesus’ other disciples as company.

Recall, too, that misperception of God’s reality is one of the consequences of original sin. True vision comes through faithfulness, not through conventional wisdom. In the words of this morning’s second reading from Romans the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

During Lent the gospels invite us to embrace the uncomfortable, the counterintuitive and the cross and to recognize our own misperceptions of God’s reality and turn our lives to Christ for guidance.