Scripture Reading: Mark 8:31-38
Meditation (The following is an excerpt from this morning’s sermon for the second Sunday of Lent):
I have tremendous respect for and embrace the official UMC mission statement: “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” No matter how you read or listen to it, this sounds great, until you stop and think about it. Wait just a minute. Hold everything. Is he saying what I think he is? Is this going to hurt? What exactly does Jesus have in mind when he calls us to be his disciples? If this is our mandate (and it is–check out the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, “Go into all the world and make disciples”), what does it look like? The answer to that question is found in the clearest statement on discipleship, in all the Bible, the one made here by Jesus and recorded in St. Mark’s Gospel: “If any want to become my followers (disciples), let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 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.”
Here in St. Mark’s eighth chapter, Jesus begins to speak about his death. This was startling to the disciples, and represents a turning point in this evangelist’s Gospel. From this point, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, to the darkness of Gethsemane’s garden, to the judgment hall of Pilate, to the whipping post, and to the bloody cross; yet, on the way, he still ministers to individuals, still healing, still comforting, still cleansing, restoring, and blessing people. After Jesus had announced the cross to his disciples, been rebuked by Peter, and had rebuked him in turn, Mark recounts our Lord’s declaration of what it means to choose to follow him. “Christ does not pull his sheep by a rope; in his army are none but volunteers” (E. Frommel). Volunteering to be Christ’s disciple requires three progressive steps, each building on what went before:
Following Jesus means coming to the end of myself and adopting a radically new way of thinking and living.
(We will consider each of these steps in the Lenten meditations for this week)