Reflection on Mark 8, 27-35
Jesus was always teaching – either by word or by example. He personified the meaning of Rabbi.
This is a classic example of his teaching. He begins by asking people whom they thought he was.
Peter says the Messiah – but understand the context of using the word Messiah. For Peter, it was someone who was going to save the Israelites and return them to their pre-eminence. Peter – stubborn, worldly, a little proud and sometimes fickle as we saw in the final hours of Jesus – but a good man with a good heart
Then Jesus begins to talk to them about his fate. He does this first to help prepare them for his death but also to illustrate that he was someone who was different. Because only God, in the end, could have his mortal body tortured and disgraced and then rise from the dead.
Now look at how he reacts to Peter. Those are strong words. There is almost a flash of anger. But he wants to use this occasion to teach and he uses this example with Peter to drive home the point that the world in which they lived had set standards by which he did not live. The most poignant was that he would give up his life so that others would be saved, if you contrast that with the Pharisees way of life, you see the difference.
Now he moves from that to deliver a very strong message— the example of denial of self and following him.
To be a true follower of Christ means that we must die to self every day. That’s a huge concept. It means that we must adopt a different measure of our life. My spiritual director taught me that with a standard that I use to measure my day. It has nothing to do with the amount of money I earn or the possessions I have. Instead, I measure each day by evaluating how Christ-Like I have been that day. Have I touched another in a positive manner, have I consoled if consolation is needed, have I encouraged, have I made another believe they are important, have I helped someone build their self esteem.
That’s a different standard and a standard that is not commonly used because it denies most of this world’s standards.
The next part of the message is beautifully consoling. Jesus acknowledges that each of us has a cross. Each of us is subject to carrying a burden – be it physical, emotional or both. But he reminds us that, through the example of his suffering, he is always with us. Think about earthly suffering. I often think of Pope John Paul. In his suffering, he set an example. Even though he was in daily prayer and it was difficult for him to carry on, he did because each day, he gave up his suffering to God. I sometimes try to do that when I am in pain. I remind myself that no pain I bear could be greater than the pain he bore for me.
And then the most powerful part of his teaching – READ “whoever would save his life, “Here is the essence of that teaching – if you wind up holding on to the “things” of this life and they grow all important to you, you will never know the glory of his kingdom. If we are unable to recognize that there is a higher path, a different standard then how can we ever KNOW his kingdom? If we are so tied to this material world then how can we ever justify being in he spiritual world.
BUT if we shed those standards and focus on Him, then it’s a different story. Think again of the standard of being Christ-like. Think what it means for your words and actions. Think what it would mean for our own immediate environment if each of us were truly Christ to one another. Shouldn’t that be our goal? Should not each of us realize that since we are created in the image of God and secondly, each of us has chosen to become a Christian, then doesn’t that mean that we are halfway there to being Christ like?
Then the final half of that equation is living our life differently. It means truly being Christ. Each of us is called to that mission and each of us is worthy of that mission. All we need to do is bring it to life – His life.