The Son of Man Must suffer Greatly by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" They said in reply, "John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets." And he asked them. "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said to him in reply, "You are the Christ." Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it."
I never liked this Gospel passage when I was a kid. I could not understand how Jesus could use such harsh language with a good friend. What would drive Jesus to call Peter "Satan?"
As always, the context is important. Jesus had recently performed several miracles. He had cured many ill, mysteriously fed the vast crowd, calmed the storm and confronted the scribes and Pharisees. The crowds were gathering in large numbers and people were taking a serious interest in Christ and His work.
Today's passage marks a transition. Jesus has finished the Galilean ministry and now He is headed to Jerusalem. It is time to explain more clearly His mission to His disciples. They are more or less convinced that He is the Messiah, but they still walk in darkness.
So, Jesus "began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly."
Because their faith was young and immature, this was more than they could handle. Peter pulls the Lord aside and objects rather strongly. Perhaps his thoughts went along these lines, "Lord, what are you talking about? You are on a roll. The people are flocking to you. They hang on every word you speak. They can't wait for your next sign. You are the only one with the authority to challenge the Sanhedrin. Why are you talking about suffering and dying?"
Then Jesus turns to Peter, eyes the other apostles, and says: "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." The apostles still had so much to learn, and the most important lessons are often the hardest. The disciples were all excited for a Messiah, but not a suffering one. They were captivated by the Truth, but they were reluctant to hear the whole of it. They were thrilled about the idea of new life and renewal, but they were slow to walk the narrow path. They were ready for almost anything except the message of suffering.
So, Jesus decided to make it clear what it will mean to be a real follower: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."
Christian love demands that we be willing to embrace suffering, offer it to the Father like Christ did, and see it as a means to salvation. Jesus showed the way when He subjected Himself to a hideous death and was nailed to a tree.
As Christians, our love for God will approach perfection in proportion to our willingness to suffer for Him and for our neighbor. For sure, we do not go looking for suffering, but we will embrace it when God asks us to. We do not see suffering as an intrinsic evil to be avoided at all costs. Practically speaking, we will sacrifice time, rest and money to take care of a sick family member. We will gradually let go of deceased loved ones and trust that God will take better care of them in heaven than we can. We will die to ourselves and give up a bad habit that is harming our health or the good of our family. We will avoid sex before marriage because it is God's plan, because it is best for us, for marriage and for society. We will put up with many trials at work in order to provide for those entrusted to our care as parents. We will seriously consider a vocation to the consecrated life or priesthood in order to further the work of Christ in this world.
"Whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it."
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