This Sunday (4 March), the Roman Catholic Lectionary gives us the Gospel of the Transfiguration, about which we blogged earlier. In the Church of England, the Gospel reading is Mark 8.31-end
Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things …and that he must be killed and after three days rise again… Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of human beings.”
The first section of this reading reinforces last week’s message: Jesus’ ministry is not to be based on grandstanding and wonder-working, but on challenging injustice, and meeting violence with love. For all that he has taught them, the disciples find this an incredibly hard message to digest. We are constantly tempted to look for glory somewhere else. Jesus’ teaching and practice reminds us again and again that it is to be found in suffering, self-giving love.
Jesus said: “If any want to become my followers, 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.”
Dying, we live: this is the paradox at the heart of the Gospel. In holding power and possessions to ourselves, we cut ourselves off from the greatest gift of all – the koinonia (fellowship) which is at the heart of God, and into which we are invited by Christ’s death and resurrection. God’s self-offering on the cross gives us both the example and the power to offer ourselves as a ‘living sacrifice’ (Romans 12.1). ‘We love because he first loved us’ – and in so doing, we share the very life of God (2 Peter 1.4)