31Then Jesus 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. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But 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."
34Jesus 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. 35For 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. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?
Today is the second Sunday in (but not of) Lent. Today's passage from Mark's gospel ends the first half of Mark's gospel. Maybe surprisingly, it comes before the Mark 9:2-9 Transfiguration account we studied two weeks ago. The peeps who assembled the Revised Common Lectionary that provides most of our scripture readings didn't include Peter's confession of Jesus as the Christ that immediately precedes today's reading and that we'll hear next September 16 on Pentecost 17:
Mark 8:27Jesus 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?" 28And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." 29He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." 30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
As we discussed extensively last week, the word lent derives from days lengthening as we move toward spring in the northern hemisphere. Lent is a penitential time to repent of past misdeeds and turn around in the opposite direction to do better. Lent also is a time of awareness that we receive life as a gift of God's grace and mercy, and a time freely to offer grace, mercy, and life to others. Life as gift and not transaction! Richard and Julie both mentioned being more thoughtful and intentional before saying anything to anyone; Pastor Peg explained Lent is like our personal spring cleaning time and if we don't slow down, we'll relocate the dust bunnies of various kinds instead of getting rid of them. Sara said she needs to do everything Lentissimo that's the extremely slow tempo designation in music.
Here Jesus talks to his disciples about the way of the cross, about paradoxically losing their lives in order to gain their lives. In verses 35, 36, 37 the word for life is the same as "psych" where we get a wide group of English words. It implies not only psychological and emotional, but every aspect of our being—similar to heart in Hebrew. It is not the Zoë life that brings us the familiar name Zoe.
During Revised Common Lectionary year C, Luke's year, we talked about neighborology, the word about the neighbor. During that year we heard a lot from the prophet Jeremiah with his concern for the neighbor, the other than us. In today's scripture Jesus essentially talks about giving up our own druthers and preferences to help take care of the needs of our neighbors. For most of us, service to the neighbor begins where we find ourselves here and now. It's unlikely God will send us to spend a season with St. Teresa of Kolkata's peeps or on a mission of some kind to the people of Syria; it is for sure that God's calls us to thoughtful action and service in order to offer life as gift to those nearby us.
Today's scripture portion opens with Mark 8:31, sometimes referred to as Jesus' first passion prediction of three in Mark's gospel.