May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be always acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer.
For much of Christian history:
being identified as a “disciple of Jesus” has been considered high praise.
It is, after all: What we strive to be:
We WANT to be disciples of Jesus in the world.
And in Jesus’ time:
The disciples were the hand picked group of followers:
Who lived, learned, and labored alongside Jesus.
They were commissioned to heal the sick, baptize people:
And proclaim the Good News of God in Christ to the ends of the earth.
But when we look closely:
We see that the Scripture does not always portray the disciples with such glamor and reverence.
In today’s Gospel:
Jesus takes the disciples aside to teach them that he will soon be given over to human hands:
That he will suffer, die, and rise again.
And the disciples just don’t get it.
It’s very similar to what we heard last week:
Unable to understand that Jesus must suffer and die.
Marks’ Gospel tells of Jesus trying to teach the disciples this important lesson:
On three different occasions.
And EVERY TIME: The disciples don’t get it.
They’re concerned with other things.
Like which one of them is the greatest:
And what the people in town thought about them:
And what they’re going to eat for lunch.
And they argue about it.
Not only do the disciples not understand:
They’re also too afraid to ask Jesus any questions about his bizarre teaching of his suffering, death, and resurrection.
Hindsight is 20-20:
Because we can look at the disciples:
And see their failure:
And even be annoyed at their lack of understanding.
Because we KNOW the end of the story.
Yet how often are we guilty of the same thing?
How often are we afraid to ask a question because we think we should know the answer:
Or because we’re afraid our question is stupid:
Or even because we’re afraid of the answer?
Maybe the disciples were afraid to ask Jesus a question:
Because they should have been paying better attention.
Or maybe they were afraid because they thought Jesus would think they were ignorant.
Or MAYBE: They were afraid to ask because somewhere:
Deep Down: They already knew the terrifying answer.
Jesus said, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”
I wish that Mark would tell us about the expressions on the disciples faces:
When they heard Jesus speak these words.
Mark doesn’t tell us about any gasps, or horrified stares:
He only says: “They did not understand what he was saying,
And were afraid to ask him.”
We can guess, that the disciples feared the fate of their friend and leader.
Each of them had left their families:
And their livelihoods:
To join the task of following Jesus.
Naturally: Hearing that Jesus expects to be arrested and killed:
Never mind the bit about rising from the dead--
All comes as quite a shock to the disciples.
But what if there was another reason that the disciples were afraid?
What if, along with the fear about what would happen to Jesus:
They were also afraid of what would happen to them?
After all: If JESUS:
Their Leader is arrested and killed,
Surely his closest followers would come under scrutiny as well.
Maybe the root of the disciples’ fear is the fact that they actually were beginning to understand.
Maybe they were beginning to realize what the true cost of discipleship is.
In a world where wealth is good: but more wealth is better:
Where consumerism is the king:
And where our worth is measured by what we have,
Rather than what we give:
The cost of discipleship is hard news that many would prefer not to hear.
But it is also GOOD news that we desperately need to hear.
There was a lot of press a few years ago,
About the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Jonathan Daniels.
Episcopalians from around the world, gathered in Alabama:
To remember the man who was killed during the height of the Civil Rights movement in 1965.
Jonathan Daniels: Was basically martyred:
After pushing an African American teenager named Ruby Sales:
Out of harms way, when the two walked into a corner store.
They were met by an angry man: pointing a loaded shotgun at them.
For Jonathan Daniels:
The cost of discipleship was his very life.
And as the disciples began to process their fear about what Jesus was teaching them:
Maybe they were beginning to realize the heavy cost that discipleship would place on their own lives.
These are, of course, extreme cases.
But they also show us the true fact that we can’t confess the faith of Jesus crucified, and resurrected:
Without coming to terms with the reality that discipleship puts on us.
It Costs us something.
For some of us, it may cost us what is popular.
For others, it may cost us our comfort zones:
Still others, it may even cost us a friend.
It’s easier to just listen to Jesus’ hard teaching about suffering, death, and resurrection:
And continue on:
Without asking any questions: As if nothing had ever happened.
It may be easier: To continue on the road to Capernaum:
Arguing with each other about who is the greatest:
Instead of facing the hard reality of what is to come:
Where the one who wants to be first must be the last of all:
And the servant of all.
But deep down in our bones:
Just carrying on: As if this Jesus stuff is nothing:
Will leave us hungry.
The path of discipleship is HARD.
It leads us through suffering:
And even death.
It may cost us dearly.
But its good news and blessings are even greater:
As we discover the path takes us away from fear:
Away from arguing:
Into uniting, supportive friendships.
As the Eucharistic prayer says:
Out of error, into truth:
Out of sin, into righteousness:
Out of death and into resurrected life.
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