Our Gospel lesson is Mark 8:31-38, taken today from the New Revised Standard Version (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.”
Peter tries to give Jesus some politically correct advice, warning Him that their mission may be hampered if people hear that the Messiah is to be rejected and killed. Jesus responds that Peter is missing the point, that the truth is more important than earthly things. Once again, Peter could be any one of us, not understanding the difficult lesson the Lord has for us.
Jesus teaches that if we want to follow Him, we must deny ourselves and take up our own cross. This is hard to hear, especially for those who expected a return to power and a place of honor among nations. He said that His kingdom was not of this world and if we cling to earthly things we might miss the eternal joy God has for us.
This requires faith in what we do not yet see and patience to work for it. Jesus knows we have a hard time with both of these, but He stresses that the only way to God is through Him. We must listen, learn, and practice His way in order to be saved.
Merciful God, we don’t always understand what we must do. Give us faith and strength to be changed people, following the example of Jesus. Amen.