What's the difference between Jesus' call to become like a child,
and his call to welcome one such child in his name?
Come, Holy Spirit, and kindle the fire that is in us.
Take our lips and speak through them.
Take our hearts and see through them.
Take our souls and set them on fire. Amen.
Back to Square One
All summer long we have been making our way through the Gospel of Mark, and last week our story a dramatic turn. For the first eight chapters of Mark, Jesus had been announcing the arrival of God’s kingdom. He had demonstrated its power and presence with powerful words and powerful deeds. He exorcised demons, cleansed lepers, and healed the lame. He raised the dead, and restored hearing and sight to the deaf and the blind. He stilled storms, walked on the sea, and fed thousands with just a few loaves. Surely God was with him. Yet, this Jesus also consorted with tax-collectors and sinners and Gentiles. He disregarded purity traditions, rewrote parts of the Law, and committed blasphemy. So perhaps he was just crazy, or perhaps he was in league with the Devil.
So, for eight chapters the questions and the rumors and the speculations circulated. Who is this Jesus? Is he John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets of old? Or is he just a drunkard and a glutton, a false prophet leading the people astray. Even his own disciples struggled to understand Jesus and his mission. But then in last’s week’s episode, Peter declares, “You are the Messiah.” Finally, the disciples get it right. Finally, they have come to the conclusion that Mark’s readers have known since the opening verse of the gospel, that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s anointed.
But this glorious moment of recognition is short-lived. As soon as Jesus’ identity is known, he lets the disciples know the road that lies ahead. He begins to teach them, saying, that he “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.” It sounds like the talk of a madman, so Peter rebukes Jesus as though he had a demon; and Jesus rebukes Peter right back. Now we are back to square one. Who is this Jesus? And what does it mean to follow him?