instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Who can't accept it?

While listening to the proclamation of Mark 8:27-35 at Mass yesterday, I realized St. Mark left off the part at the end where the people say, "This is a hard saying. Who can accept it?"

They must have said that, right? They think they might be following John the Baptist, or maybe Elijah or one of the prophets, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Whoever he is, he astonishes all with word and deed.

Then, out of the blue, Jesus tells them,
Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.
Wait, "whoever loses his life"? "For my sake"? Look, mister, we're just hear for the miracles and the oracles. Nobody said anything about anybody dying, much less for your sake.

And what does "take up his cross" even mean? You Nazarenes might have some colorful idioms, but the only crosses in these parts are the ones the Romans use to crucify the worst of the worst criminals.

I wouldn't think the crowd cared for this sort of talk any more than Peter cared for Jesus speaking openly of His own suffering and death. St. Mark, though, only records Peter's response. The crowds are largely silent in this stretch of St. Mark's Gospel, from the time they remark that Jesus "does all things well" at the end of Chapter 7 until they shout, "Hosanna!" in Chapter 11.

It's probably safe to say the response of the crowd to Jesus' teaching to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him is less important than the response of those who claim to be His disciples. The disciples who were right there when He said these words didn't seem to get what He was talking about, even when He spoke openly about His death.

Personally, I find it very easy to accept this saying, as long as I get to decide how much denying I have to do and which cross is mine.