Written by Kathy Galloway
‘For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?’
31 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.
32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 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.”
34 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.
35 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.
36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?
37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?
38 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.”
This is the week when the hard challenges of Lent begin to get very much harder! Immediately before these verses in Mark 8, when Jesus is with the disciples at Caesarea Philippi, Peter has made his confession of faith – or perhaps it is his recognition – when asked by Jesus, ‘Who do you think I am?’ Peter answers, ‘You are the Messiah, the Christ.’
For the Jews, Messiah is a title which was full of meaning. They knew what to expect in a Messiah-a powerful judge, a mighty warrior, a great leader. The Son of Man who would establish justice and freedom from oppression and save the people. So, it was clearly shocking to Peter when Jesus, scarcely drawing breath, goes on to describe a very different reality indeed. The destiny of the Son of Man was actually to undergo great suffering, rejection by everyone in authority and be killed.
So shocked is Peter by this that he takes Jesus aside, and basically tells him that he’s got it all wrong. At this, Jesus rebukes Peter very strongly, compares him to the Tempter of the wilderness, and forbids him from trying to divert Jesus from his mission.
Even more shocking is the fact that the next thing that Jesus says is that, not only will this dreadful prospect be his future, it will also be that of his followers. They need to let go of any idea of earthly reward or recognition; this will not happen. If Peter had any idea of being in the winning party, he should forget it. Given that Peter had already accepted that Jesus was a Jewish prophet who taught that the kingdom of justice and comradeship was at hand, and that a sign of its arrival would be the poor coming to power and the rich being sent away, this was really not the way he had envisaged it. This is much more like what theologian Herbert McCabe wrote, that if you don’t love, you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you.
For us, who seek to be followers of Jesus here, the risk of death is not great, and we won’t lose our lives in Great Western Road or the High Court of Justiciary. There are plenty of people elsewhere in the world who do run these risks all the time. Nor are our lives at risk, in the short term at least, from the huge damage that our western way of life continues to cause on the natural world; that risk is borne by multiple species and forms and eco-systems, and by the poorest people on earth.
These are still vital questions that Jesus asks; what will it profit us to gain the whole world and forfeit our life? What can we give in return for our life? And not just our own individual lives, but the lives of others.
help us to follow you on the road to Jerusalem,
to set our faces firmly against friendly suggestions
to live a safe, expedient life,
to embrace boldly the way of self-offering.
Help us to follow you even to the cross…
To see our hope in your self-spending love,
To die to all within us not born of your love.
Jesus our brother, help us to follow you.
Your item – a shell
This week our item is a small shell. Shells are an amazing part of our natural environment, over countless millennia, with many uses and meanings. The scallop shell is traditionally the symbol of St James the Apostle, patron saint of Spain, and for pilgrims making the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage to Compostela in Galicia.
Questions for further reflection
- What, for you, is a part of the natural world you love and wish to save?
- What would you give to save it?
For previous parts of our Journey through Lent go to: https://wellingtonchurch.co.uk/category/lent/Lent2021/