Tuesday, April 17, 2018

losers are keepers

The Word for today:
Mark 8:27-38

Jesus is famous for turning the tables in the Temple upside down.

A lot of people value that scene for its graphics. I am one of them, because I think its graphics are truthful. It presents a picture of a more “muscular” Jesus, which corresponds to the hints we’re given in the Bible:
1. As a carpenter, he worked with heavy beams, heavy hammers, and with the omnipresent building material in Israel--stone. Think “construction worker,” not “cabinet maker.”
2. In today’s reading, when he asked what the people were saying about him, the disciples agreed that the man-on-the-street saw him as the return of either John the Baptist or Elijah (1). Since the people perceived both John and Elijah as tower-of-power prophets, we can infer that Jesus could not be the mild flower child that many, today, perceive him to be.

But while I do value that scene pictorially, I value it metaphorically even more,  because Jesus turned thought, itself, upside down. He single-handedly turned truth, as the world perceives it, on its head.

With astonishing authority, he addresses their misperceived notion of the Messiah. When Peter confessed that “You are the Christ,” he and the disciples had in mind the superhuman leader Israel had been waiting for since the time of David—who would overthrow Israel’s enemies, make Jerusalem the center of the world, and establish the perfect reign of God.

But Jesus turns the tables, teaching them what had never entered their imaginations: the Messiah would conquer sin through his suffering.

When well-meaning Peter took him aside to help him re-think his mission statement, Jesus turns the tables again, identifying Peter’s traditional view of the Messiah as the logic of Satan:
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." (Mark 8:33)

Then, as if all of that were not enough table-turning for one afternoon, he decides to flip the definition of “winning” and “losing” upside down:
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)

From that day to this, the world (whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not, whether we admit to it or not) has had to re-think every one of its standard suppositions.  All because a single voice insisted that suffering was salvation and that losers are keepers.

(1) Mark 8:27-28

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