2 Lent – Year B
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:22-30; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38
“To deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self, to see only him who goes before and no more the road which is too hard for us.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
We often settle for the first blush of the supposed obvious. That’s what Peter does in this Gospel story. He admonishes Jesus for talking about the necessity of suffering and dying. He thinks self-preservation is the only necessity worthy of Jesus’ agenda. Peter really rubbed Jesus the wrong way, to the extent that Jesus was peeved enough to call him “Satan,” the prosecutor. (see Greek below) Why does Peter want to prove Jesus wrong? He slipped into the conventional wisdom that looking for one’s own success is the road to fullness of life. But wisdom is seldom conventional. Peter could not wrap his mind around Jesus’ words: “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.” (Mark 8:35) Benjamin Franklin’s saying: “Deny self for self’s sake” might even sound selfish. But it is true. What Jesus, Ben and Dietrich are all saying is that there is usually more to life than we might think. When we look only to ourselves we are myopic. Neither you nor I are the center of the universe. Many astronomers say that the universe has no physical center because of its curvature. The only possible center therefore is spiritual. We Christians call that Christ. We need to again take our rightful position, not as the center, but as part of the whole. This Lent, more than giving up candy or cake, let us deny our false position in the scheme of things. For a start, this week, let us resolve to do something for someone else, with no reward in mind. There is someone lonely or hurting out there waiting for us. If the road to that person seems hard (Bonhoeffer above) know that Christ beckons us from beyond our comfort zone, and is there lonely and hurting in that person. Rather than here try to explain how we save our life by losing it, let’s just do it, and experience the inexplicable.
In Mark 8:33 Jesus calls Peter “Satan.” He is not saying Peter is evil. “Satan” in the original Greek was a term common in the legal court system referring to the prosecuting attorney. The prosecuting attorney’s job is to prove the person on trial to be wrong. Peter was putting Jesus on trial and accusing him of being wrong.
The road lonely seemed.
Christ proved not wrong, but life found
not bound so in self.