1 November 2012

Mark 8:34 - 9:1

"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (v. 34)


In our attempts to understand the idea of God, we begin at a disadvantage. Our imaginations are limited by our experience. The only language available to us is the language we use to talk about friends, ambitions, anxiety, and mundane stuff like the patterns on wallpaper. We are inclined to picture God as 'superhuman'. To be like God must be to have astounding powers: think, and it happens immediately.

Jesus gives us the best range of options for talking about God, because he is the living image of God. In this passage of Mark's Gospel he reminds us rather sharply that the goal of our discipleship is that we too become God's living image. It's a very tall order, because the example Jesus sets before us is not one of astounding power; rather, it is an image of astonishing vulnerability,. We are invited to rethink our image of God, so that (in the words of a popular hymn) it includes meekness as well as majesty, in perfect harmony. We might quite fancy being like God in the 'majesty' sense, but Jesus makes it clear that first, and continuing alongside the majesty idea, we must master and practise the art of meekness. If we can get our heads around this remarkable idea of what God might be like, we can begin to address the problem of how to be human.

To Ponder

  • How do you play with God? Do words like reverence, awe and fear fill your mind? Or perhaps words like joy, fulfilment, fun? What does God want of you: to kneel, or to dance?
  • How do you approach your fellow humans? To what extent do you pray that you might see in them the image of God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr John Ogden

John Ogden spent most of his life (he is now in his late 60s) teaching Computer Science in the universities of Glasgow and Reading. A local preacher since 1964, he served the Reading and Silchester Circuit as a circuit steward in the 1980s, then candidated for (non-stipendiary) ministry.