Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

by Crossings

The Divine Life
Mark 8:27-38
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 19)
Analysis by Lori A. Cornell

Mark 8: 27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. 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.”


Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – The (Not-So-) Good Life
In direct contradiction to Jesus’ own warning-that when we wish to save our lives we will lose them (v. 35)-we first-world folks (including us Christians) spend a lifetime attempting to preserve our lives. We like what we have, or may yet have-especially our wealth and (apparent) moral decency. Our lives seem to be above reproach. We live the good life. And with both wealth and morality in our lives we consider ourselves blessed and godly. We trust that good living and a good reputation will carry us, and consequently we fear little except perhaps public shame and infamy.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – The Human Life
If we forced to tell the truth, most of us would have to confess that we think we can have a good and righteous life apart from Jesus Christ. And when Jesus fails to value what we value (prosperity and moral righteousness for its own sake), and turns his attention to such dark pursuits as suffering and death, we think the problem is with Jesus-just like Peter did when he rebuked Jesus (v. 32). We have our eyes fixed only on human things. Like Peter (and the blind man before him in 8:22-26) we have only partial sight. We fail to see life on divine terms.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – The Lost Life
Worse than that, however, we take offense that Jesus fails to appreciate success in human terms. We are ashamed that he accepts suffering and death rather than trying to avoid it. But that is because we have set our minds (and banked our lives) on human things. And, as Jesus tells Peter all too clearly, to judge the Christ by human stands is satanic. In fact, trying to preserve our life only guarantees that we will lose it (v. 35), because the truth is that God will not accept us apart from Christ and his purposes (suffering, death, and rising). And if we are ashamed of Christ, then we are destined for shame when the Son of Man returns in his glory (v. 38). In other words, we are lost.


Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) – The Lost-Life Saver
No, God will not have us apart from Christ. But that is good new too, because finally (despite our human ways) God is determined to have us! So God saves us through the very means we deem shameful: He saves us lost, human-minded sinners through another Human who was also presumed lost (for three days in the grave, to be precise). The One who suffered, died, and was buried is raised from death in order to claim us lost and hopeless humans (v. 31). Peter’s naive confession is nevertheless a true confession: Jesus is the Messiah. And he demonstrates what that means by suffering shame and infamy in order to save us for a life with God.

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – The Crossed Life
Jesus is the Messiah and he is our Messiah. The cross, which brought him shame and identified him as a common criminal, bought each of us actual sinners salvation. Because Jesus took up the cross for us, we can trust that God intends that we will not live apart from-but with-the Christ (and his Father). And because Jesus was raised from death, we can trust that our lives are not lost but have been found in his death and resurrection.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – The Christ Life
The One who has his mind and heart set on divine things has saved us. And now that he has saved us, he calls us to follow him. He named us as his own in Baptism, and names us daily through his Word, and then he calls us to do divine things: He calls us into a discipleship in which we deny our selves, and take up the cross (v. 34). He calls us to take up our cross, but this is not some sort of ascetic exhortation to quietly accept whatever random suffering may come our way. Instead, he calls us to live the life he has made possible for us through his death and resurrection- a life where we speak his name without shame, and do his will, knowing that there may be a cost to our discipleship, but that we’ve already gained life with the divine.


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