By Rhonda Compise
Sometimes I feel like my life is going against the flow. Things that should be simple somehow feel complicated and difficult. And, the harder I try to get something straight, the worse it usually gets! I wonder if that is how the disciples felt when Jesus was teaching them.
I read the passage of Mark 8:31-38. Then I looked at the previous verses to see what had happened before. I saw in verse 29 that Peter had a moment of clarity when he told Jesus that he believed Jesus was the Christ, or Messiah. Already by verse 32, Peter had changed course and pulled Jesus aside and rebuked him for the comments that he made. Then in verse 33 Jesus called Peter “Satan,” and told him to get out of his sight!
I can relate to Peter, because everything was simple in verse 29: Jesus was going to make everything wonderful. But the more Jesus said, the more confusing and complicated it was getting. He was asking the disciples to believe something which was completely counter-intuitive. Every Jew believed that the Messiah would set up an earthly kingdom which would never end. But Jesus was telling them that he was about to be killed by the very religious leaders who were expected to serve the Messiah in his kingdom.
Just when it seemed things could not get more complicated, Jesus made another statement in verse 35 which was even more confusing:
“Whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
2000 years later, I think we are all still having trouble understanding this concept. It is still counter-intuitive! For me, the observation of the time of Lent helps with understanding what Jesus was trying to communicate. During Lent we give up something in order to get something: the enrichment of our spiritual life. This self-discipline requires faith, it challenges our faith, and our faith grows in response to the challenge.
As I pondered this counter-intuitive concept in Mark, I thought of Mother Teresa. She is a great example of an average person who gave up her life for the gospel. She took an oath of poverty and lived in the ghettos of Calcutta to bring the love of Jesus to people who had nothing. This woman, who had nothing during life, and nothing at the time of her death, did have the respect of the world and also a Nobel Peace Prize! I read that she refused the acclaim of the awards dinner and requested that the $192,000.00 that would have been spent on the dinner be given to ministry with the poor. In every way that she gave up her life, it produced results for the gospel.
During this season of Lent, let’s pray to find new ways to give up temporary material things to receive eternal spiritual results. Let’s live counter-intuitively!