I've said before that I love the Gospel of Mark - and here is why. Throughout this book of the Bible the disciples are following Jesus around faithfully - but they never seem to "get it." They ask questions and stumble and bumble around. They doubt and argue amongst themselves and I think in this book they come off as always being...well - a little bit clueless.
Which means, there is hope for me. And there is hope for all of us.
I mean, they had Jesus right there in front of them teaching, healing, and performing miracles, and they still struggled to understand the mystery of God's love and what Jesus was doing.
And Jesus keeps answering their questions, teaching them, guiding them, and including them in on his journey on earth and to the cross.
Peter, for example, has his moments where he reacts completely human and in ways in which I can completely relate. Remember the story of the Transfiguration? Jesus takes Peter and friends up on the mountain and is seen there with the glowing images of Moses and Elijah - trying to show them who he is and how he is transformed by God. Peter is terrified and too afraid to just stand there and let it all soak in. He responds by focusing on is own agenda. He is planning, organizing, offering to make shelters because he doesn't know what else to do. I totally get that. I am a planner and a list maker, too. When I am overwhelmed, anxious, and scared I over function and forget to just stop and listen - to take it all in.
In this week's passage, Peter is at it again.
Read Mark 8: 31-38
Jesus for the first time in the Gospel predicts his death. He starts to talk about how he would die and come alive again. And Peter freaks out and tells Jesus he's not buying it. Jesus tells Peter to step off. Actually, he says "Get behind me, Satan."
Get behind me. Follow me.
Stop thinking about your own plan or expectations. This is God's plan.
The next part of the passage is all the scary language about denying one's self and taking up the cross. “If you want to follow me, you have to think about God’s plan and not your own ideas,” is what I think he's saying.
Jesus tells Peter and the disciples that he will undergo suffering, that he will have to sacrifice and show courage, and that his disciples, too, will also have to show courage of their own.
It takes a lot of courage for us to do what God wants us to do. We are all Peter at times and we want things to be how we want them. We are clueless, like disciples in Mark. And we often don't have the faintest idea of what God wants us to do with our lives.
But there is hope for us. Remember that Jesus taught the most important things are to love God and love our neighbors. That’s God’s plan and I think it sounds like a pretty good one. We can keep following like the disciples - learning, asking, and doubting. I think God will wait for us.