12 September 2021Mark 8:27-38
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.' (v. 34)
Today is Education Sunday, which might lead us to thinking more broadly about our own interaction with Scripture and with the story of Jesus in particular. In this passage from Mark, Jesus is teaching those who are following him. He asks the question: “Who do people say that I am?” It's a straightforward question, and their reply shows that they had been listening to the folk who had gathered around Jesus as they had journeyed together. They list the various descriptions they had heard – John the Baptist, Elijah, and some of the prophets – it must have been a very friendly, easygoing conversation but then the crunch comes. Jesus asks: “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29) and there is only one of the group, Peter, who gives an answer “You are the Messiah” the promised one.
It would be good to hear how the other 11 answered. We might ponder whether Jesus is actually issuing them with a warning about the days ahead. He spells out clearly what is going to happen to him, much to the dismay and disbelief of Peter if not the whole group and it is clear that Peter hasn’t fully understood what his declaration meant. It would seem that in Peter’s eyes the Messiah would be untouchable and never put in a position of rejection and danger. Jesus response to Peter might seem harsh: “Get behind me Satan! for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." (Mark 8.33)
Jesus further challenges the disciples and the crowd around them with the words “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
- What do you think it means when Jesus says his followers have to take up the cross and follow him?
- Do you think those who heard Jesus that day would have fully understood what he was saying to them?
- Do we understand any more than they did what was meant by the teaching the disciples received that day?
Lord please give us the strength to take up the cross that the world puts before us as we seek to follow the commandments of Christ and help us to break down the barriers that divide us from our neighbours, made as we are in your image. Amen.