Mark 8:31-38 Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “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. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Reflection Who wants to hear the teacher’s instruction, “Take up your cross and follow me?” And what in the world does it mean to, “Take up your cross” anyway? Throughout the years I have stumbled over a variety of possible explanations. Today I believe twenty first century Jesus might express it this way, “Consent to your humanity as I do.” Why do I think this?
Mark’s gospel begins with the acclamation, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.” (1.1) Ten verses later at Jesus’ baptism “a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (1.11) Twice identified as Son of God nonetheless Jesus calls himself Son of Man. What is this about?
I believe in calling himself Son of Man Jesus is consenting to his human condition; subject to every emotion, challenge, conflict, suffering, benediction and finally to his mortality. Although Jesus finds his spiritual identity in God as affirmed in his baptism, he also recognizes his corporeal identity in his humanity. The cross stands for the coherence of the spiritual and corporeal; humanity (our fickle human condition) represented by the horizontal beam fastened to our trustworthy vertical stanchion, identity in God.
Jesus is the Son of God and also the Son of Man, which thankfully establishes Jesus as one of us. As beloved sons and daughters who from the very beginning are made in the image and likeness of God we too must consent to our fickle humanity as well as our trustworthy identity as daughters and sons of God. We too must take up the cross, following the way of Jesus.
Like Jesus we find our identity in God as affirmed in our baptism, but that does not procure for us a “get out of jail free” card. (Clearly that did not work for Jesus!) Even though we are daughters and sons of God we must also consent to our temperamental human condition, subject to every emotion, challenge, conflict, suffering, benediction and finally to our mortality. The way of the cross is the way of life grounded in God and subject to the volatile human condition.
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