'We Know that God Still Goes that Road with Us'
Second Sunday of Lent, March 8, 2009
by Miguel Arenas-Herrera
The encounter with Christ radically changes someone's life. Nevertheless, there are certain conditions to following Jesus. Peter didn't understand Jesus' plan when He spoke to him about suffering on the cross. Peter had accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but he didn't accept him as a suffering Messiah. As a result of that, Jesus described his path to the cross and the meaning of it for the life of his disciples.
According to historical tradition, Mark probably wrote this passage during the 60s AC. It was a time when the situation of the Christian believers was not easy. Many of them had suffered persecution, and Emperor Nero had begun the first persecution against the Christians. Many of them were killed, burned, and assassinated. The city of Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Romans.
In some other regions, strong tension had begun between Jews who had become Christian and those who still kept their Jewish traditions. In addition, Jesus' crucifixion was the main issue for people, because for the Jews someone who was called Messiah couldn't be killed on a cross (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).
Jesus gave this advice to the disciples, to Christian believers in Mark's time, and to us now: "If someone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34, NIV) During those times, the cross was a symbol of death that the Roman Empire used for those who opposed the Roman law, criminals, and people outside the Empire.
To take up Jesus' cross meant being considered outside the law, an offender of the Empire and the Roman system. However, for those who became believers of Christ, it meant fighting against injustice and accompanying those who suffered from it. Those who took up the cross were accepting the consequences of their act, saying, "Yes, I will take it; I will be part of this challenge of faith."
Jesus was ready to go to the cross. He showed His love to us, giving us the example of sacrifice. He was persecuted, but He was not afraid of giving His life for us. This is a true expression of His love for each of us.
Mark gives us one main idea at the end of the passage (Mark 8:38). We are not to be ashamed of the gospel. We are not to be ashamed of Him. Otherwise, He will be ashamed of us. So, how can we take up His cross and follow Him? By spreading the good news, by actions and words:
Do we understand Jesus' sacrifice? Or do we still deny Him, as Peter did? These questions for reflection remind me of Miguel Manzano's song "Cuando El Pobre" ("When the Poor Ones"):
Are we on the road with Him? Are we taking up our cross to follow Him?
Miguel Arenas-Herrera has been a Global Ministries missionary serving in Uruguay for the past seven years. He was a teacher of English as a Second Language, chaplain of the Crandon School in Salto, local pastor of San Lucas Methodist Church, and coordinator of the Renacer Methodist Camp Center project in Paysandú. He is an associate pastor of the Central Methodist Church in Montevideo. He has been working in music and liturgy for several years, as well as on Christian education issues.
Date posted: Mar 08, 2009