Today’s Gospel reading is the turning point in Mark’s narrative, where we hear for the first time since Mark 1:1 Jesus referred to as “Christ” and the cost of following him. From now on, Jesus’s road points directly toward Jerusalem and the cross that awaits him there.
We’ve become so accustomed to the shocking revelation of Jesus’s passion that Peter’s rebuke and Jesus’s harsh response have lost their bite. Of course the Christ must suffer and be rejected, be killed, then rise after three days. That’s just what the Messiah does.Those who would follow Jesus must embrace his redefinition of what the Christ would do: establish God’s reign not by force but by self-sacrificing love. Click To Tweet
However, for Peter and the other disciples, their Christ would use military force to free Israel from Roman rule. Jesus’s announcement of his suffering and death at the hands of their oppressor was the complete opposite of his follower’s expectations. At this crossroads, those who would follow Jesus must embrace his redefinition of what the Christ would do: establish God’s reign not by force but by self-sacrificing love.
There still may be a rebuke for us, too. Have we defined Jesus with our expectation that he looks and acts like those in power? Is it shocking for us to embrace that Jesus was not, in fact, white, like so much of our artwork portrays, but was a dark-skinned itinerant peace activist? Can we redefine Jesus not as human beings do but as God does?