Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. 32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.
33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter.“Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:31-38 (NIV)
I like reading the Lectionary text for a given week. Frequently there are alternative texts for that day. The alternative to this Mark 8 passage was Mark 9, the account of the Transfiguration. Reading both of these passages this week made me wonder if there is something to consider in Mark’s writing the tough statements of Chapter 8 and then the glory of the transformation? Peter made that same observation in his 1st letter (4:12 – end of the chapter).
I remember when I first began reading the Gospels after committing my life to Jesus. Oh, how I soaked up those encouraging passages! Jesus promises I would have an “abundant life” (John 10:10) and if I just ask for something, He will give it (Matthew 7:7)! Yes, following Jesus was going to be wonderful!
Over 15 years later, and after reading the whole Bible a few times, I found out that, like any other contract or book, it must be read in context. And that is what we need to hear from our teachers and pastors!
God’s promises are beyond our comprehension. My life with my Heavenly Father is going to be all that I dream – and more. And because my Father loves me so very much, He sent His Son to save me from the punishment I deserve for my sins and to show me how to survive the difficulties and evil of this world. And not just survive but to do so with the presence and assurance of His Spirit and the fellowship of His children. I am not alone in this world. No matter the circumstances, how dark the night, how terrifying the day – my Father will never abandon me.
Jesus told His disciples that He would die. They didn’t want to hear that or believe that. And we, His disciples, do not want to hear that we must give up our lives. What does that mean? I hear Jesus telling me that my plans for my life may not unfold as I see it. My life may very well be difficult, even as Jesus’ life included suffering. I am not exempt from struggles, sickness, and even death before I planned it. God is about Kingdom building and my life can take many paths that will result in Kingdom building. Am I willing to give up my life? Am I willing to follow Jesus’ example of completing God’s plan for me, even to death as Jesus did?
I sing this song today with faith in Jesus to lead me through.
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus written by S. Sundar Singh & sung by Selah
(Non-English parts sung in Kikongo)