Fifth Sunday in Lent

March 21, 2021

Bulletin & Hymns:

Before we enter Holy Week next Sunday, we continue our Lenten series of looking at what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in the gospel of Mark. Our passage today is one of the clearest descriptions of exactly what it will mean to follow Jesus:

Mark 8:31-38

  • This scene comes immediately after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah in Mark 8:29. How would you answer Jesus’ question: ‘who do you say that I am?’ Of all the different ways we talk about God and our relationship to Christ, which image or metaphor best describes your faith life right now?
  • “Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering…” This does not match the Jewish understanding of what the Son of Man is meant to do and be. Their expectations were shaped by passages like Daniel 7:14: “To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting reign that shall not pass away; his kingship shall never be destroyed.” For a people who had been repeatedly conquered and oppressed, the Son of Man was supposed to overthrow the armies and empires of the world and restore the promise of a Davidic rule. In what ways does Jesus subvert your expectations for what God should be and do? How do you understand Jesus as the fulfilment of the promised Messiah (which means ‘anointed one’)?
  • After Jesus says these things, Peter takes him aside “to rebuke him.” We can imagine why he’s unhappy – he’s just said that Jesus is the Messiah, he’s seen him do miraculous things, he’s given up his life to follow after Jesus; but now he’s hearing that this journey isn’t going to have the happy, victorious ending he was expecting. How do you react when something doesn’t go your way? How do you pray when it seems like the answer God is giving you is ‘no’?
  • Verse 33: “But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” It’s interesting that Jesus calls Peter ‘Satan’ here, which is ‘the Tempter.’ Next week in the garden of Gethsemane, we will hear Jesus pray for God to “remove this cup from me” (Mark 14:36). Perhaps this was part of Jesus’ temptation (which, as we talked about last month, Mark doesn’t specify in Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness), to use his power and do things differently. What temptations or “human things” are you prey to? Has there ever been a time when you took the ‘hard way’ rather than the easy way, because it was the right thing to do?
  • Jesus is clear that it’s not just himself who will suffer, but so will his disciples: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (verse 34). In our faith, the cross is both an instrument of tortuous death and a symbol of Christ’s glory. This is the way of God, that of all-giving, all-surrendering, sacrificial love. What does the cross mean to you? What does it mean for you to ‘take up’ your own cross? What have you given up or suffered to follow Jesus?

As we come to Holy Week and the end of this Lenten season, I pray you have been blessed by this journey with Mark. May we continue to deepen our discipleship as we follow the footsteps of Jesus to the cross.

Grace and Peace to you all,

Pastor Maggie Rust

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