Our Gospel lesson is Mark 8:31-38, taken today from the New International Version (NIV).

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 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.” 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. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 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.”

Two very recognizable verses are contained in our reading – “Get behind me, Satan” (v. 33) and “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (v. 34). Jesus uses these statements to teach us an important lesson: we must make a choice to resist temptation and put ourselves on His path. He has called us but it is up to us to respond.

Peter (as humans often do) reacts without thinking it through. He didn’t mean any harm, he certainly didn’t intend to cause people to doubt God’s Son. However, Jesus shows him (and us) through His reply that Peter’s comments could do just that.

He tells us that not falling for Satan’s lies is the first step, and the next is to obey. 18th century preacher John Wesley taught we must “do no harm” but then move on to “doing good”. Simply avoiding evil is not enough, Jesus says we must deny ourselves and take up our cross in order to be part of His work.

Loving Lord, we are weak by ourselves but with Your help we can help others. Make us strong in Your love to share the Gospel with the world. Amen.

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