Our Gospel lesson is Mark 8:31-38, taken today from the Common English Bible (CEB).
Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.” After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Jesus says that we must say no to ourselves (v. 34) if we are to follow Him. In other versions this is sometimes translated as deny ourselves. What does this mean in our lives?
Jesus isn’t telling us to reject who we are, it is actually an invitation to discover ourselves as the beloved children of God. He asks us to consider the blessing of being connected to God, to be able to accept the call that was placed on our lives from the very beginning. These are hard things but Jesus warns “Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives?” (v. 36).
Jesus teaches that wanting the things of the world can lead us away from the relationship God yearns to have with each of us. Most of our longings are a vain attempt to find something to fill the void that exists in our lives when we don’t know God. Jesus calls us all to turn from the temporary to the eternal and be part of God’s plan.
Gracious God, we are not complete without Your love in our lives. Bless us to be the sons and daughters You intend, sharing Your truth with the world. Amen.