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Great Fast (Lent) Sixth Sunday

Season of Great Fast

Sixth MARK 8:31–9:1
SALVIFIC ASPECT OF SUFFERING

INTRODUCTION

After Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus revealed the secret of his upcoming passion, crucifixion, and resurrection. That was unbearable for Peter, who took Jesus aside and tried to convince him to escape such a tragic ending. Jesus took it as a temptation from Satan and rebuked Peter. Jesus then presented the expected lifestyle of his followers. They must give up the aspirations of this life and take up hardships for the gospel. They might even become martyrs for the church, but will inherit eternal life in heaven. Jesus asked what merit we have by gaining the entire world and losing our soul for eternity. We cannot regain it after our death. Hence, this is the time to reconsider our life goal. Our long-term goal should be eternal life and our short time objectives and lifestyle should be aligned accordingly. Jesus assured reward for those who live for the gospel. He will reject those who reject him at his glorious return. We have the privilege of seeing the kingdom of God in our midst and become part of it. However, are we living with the heavenly goal and live to achieve it?

BIBLE TEXT (MARK 8:31–9:1)

The First Prediction of the Passion.

(Mk 8:31) Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed and after three days rise again. (32) Jesus said all this quite openly, so that Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. (33) But Jesus turning around, and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter saying, "Get behind me, Satan! Your thoughts are not from God, but from man."

The Conditions of Discipleship.

(Mk 8:34) Then he called the people and the disciples to him and said, "If anyone wants to be my follower, he must forget himself, take up his cross and follow me. (35) Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel will save it. (36) What good is it to anyone to gain the whole world and lose his own self? (37) And what can he offer to buy his own self back? (38) I tell you: If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words among this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." (Mk 9:1) And he went on to say, "Truly I tell you, there are some of those standing here who will not die before they see the kingdom of God coming with power."

INTERPRETATION

Background

During his Galilean ministry, Jesus miraculously fed four thousand people, who spent three days listening to him, with seven loaves of bread (Mk 8:1-9). When Jesus and his disciples were in Dalmanutha, the Pharisees tested Jesus, demanding a sign from heaven to prove his messiahship. After denying reply to them, he enjoined the disciples, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” (Mk 8:15). When they reached Bethsaida, Jesus gave sight to a blind man (Mk 8:22-26). While walking to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” followed by “Who do you say that I am?” When Peter replied, “You are the Messiah,” Jesus told the disciples to keep it as a secret (Mk 8:27-30). Jesus found that as an appropriate time to reveal the further plan of his passion, death, and resurrection.

The First Prediction of the Passion.

(Mk 8:31) Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed and after three days rise again.

Jesus then began to teach them

Though Jesus preached often to the public, he also gave private instructions to his disciples. He was preparing them for continuing his mission after his return to the Father. So, he revealed the secrets of his ministry and his kingdom to them so they could later preach the same to the world.

the Son of Man had to suffer many things

The Son of Man refers to Jesus, who was God, born of a human and sent by the Father. When God called Ezekiel for His mission, He called him son of man (Ezek 2:1-8). Jesus used the same phrase for him with emphasis to his humanity, while others used Son of God for him giving prominence to his divinity. In Daniel’s vision, the Son of man appeared as coming with the clouds of heaven (Dan 7:13), that is impossible for humans.

The usage Son of Man was relevant when Jesus spoke of his many sufferings as a human (Mt 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19; Mk 9:31; 10:33; Lk 9:22). Jesus preferred to talk about his worldly defeat followed by his glorious resurrection only to the disciples when they were convinced of his messiahship. Still, they could not believe and admit the prediction because they, like the popular belief of the time, were expecting an imminent kingdom on earth under a victorious Messiah who would conquer and rule over the entire world.   

rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law.

The elders, the chief priests, and the scribes represent Sanhedrin, the supreme council that met at the Temple, to decide on important issues of the Jews. It comprised seventy-one members of these groups under the presidentship of the high priest. Since they had power over the Jews in religious affairs, they were the authority to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. Instead, they condemned him to a painful and shameful crucifixion, intending to eliminate him forever.

God had experienced rejection from Israel. Though Samuel, at his old age, appointed his sons as judges over Israel, they were corrupt. So, the elders of Israel asked Samuel to appoint a king to rule over Israel. When Samuel prayed to God with displeasure at the people’s demand, the LORD consoled him, saying, “Listen to whatever the people say. You are not the one they are rejecting. They are rejecting me as their king. They are acting toward you just as they have acted from the day I brought them up from Egypt to this very day, deserting me to serve other gods” (1 Sam 8:1-8). Samuel told the Israelites, “But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your evils and calamities, by saying, ‘No! You must appoint a king over us’” (1 Sam 10:19).

Isaiah had predicted the rejection of the Messiah. "He was despised and rejected by all, a man of sorrows and familiar with grief; like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we considered him of no account" (Isa 53:3). That prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus during his trial by Pilate. When the Roman governor offered to set free Jesus as the prisoner that could be pardoned during Passover, the Jews selected Barabbas and rejected Jesus clamoring to crucify him (Mt 27:15-23).  

While teaching the Parable of the Tenants (Mk 12:1-12), Jesus told towards the end quoting from Psalm 118:22–23, “Have you not read this scripture passage: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes’?” (Mk 12:10). Hence, Jesus was sure of the official rejection from the Jews, and God making him as the cornerstone of the new Israel, the church. Jesus had no disappointment at the rejection from the Sanhedrin because he was expecting it as a fulfillment of the scriptures. His disciples, including the modern Christians, also would face rejection when working for the Kingdom of God.

He would be killed

Jesus came to the world as the lamb of God to be slaughtered in Jerusalem by the priests as the perfect sacrifice for the remission of the original sin of humanity. Jesus told his disciples, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45; Mt 20:28). When Jesus came to John the Baptist at River Jordan, he introduced this lamb to the people, stating, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).

Jesus is the Lamb that Abraham told his son Isaac that God would provide to sacrifice at Mount Moriah, that is Jerusalem. Instead of Isaac, God gave a ram for sacrifice, and He provided the promised lamb, Jesus, later (Gen 22:1-19). That Lamb had to be sacrificed to fulfill God’s plan of salvation and renew the new covenant in the blood of the Savior (Lk 22:20).

after three days rise again.

Jesus was sure of his resurrection on the third day after his death. He predicted that several times before his demise on the cross. Whenever Jesus spoke of his passion and death, he always referred to his resurrection on the third day. Jesus willingly endured the physical and mental torture for the kingdom with the confidence of his victory. As Christians, we also take up sufferings for Jesus with the same certainty of our resurrection and reward in heaven.

Besides revealing his passion, death, and resurrection to the disciples, Jesus told that to the Jews as well. After Jesus cleansed the Temple, the Jews asked him for a sign to prove his authority to do so. Jesus replied, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The evangelist then reported, “But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (Jn 2:18-22). The chief priests and the Pharisees remembered this after his crucifixion and approached Pilate to arrange guards at the tomb of Jesus for three days so that his disciples won’t take away his body and claim his resurrection (Mt 27:62-64).

The resurrection of Jesus on the third day is associated with the prophesy of Hosea before the fall of Israel to Assyria, “Come, let us return to the LORD, For it is he who has torn, but he will heal us; he has struck down, but he will bind our wounds. He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence” (Hos 6:1-2).

The story of Jonah has resemblance to the resurrection of Jesus on the third day. “But the LORD sent a great fish to swallow Jonah, and he remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jon 2:1). “Then the LORD commanded the fish to vomit Jonah upon dry land” (Jon 2:11). When the scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign from Jesus to ascertain his messiahship, he said, “No sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” (Mt 12:38-40).

Jesus rose after his death on the third day or when the third day began. So, he did not spend entire three days in the tomb. The difference in this gospel passage, “after three days” and the truth can be an error in the manuscript's copying. Another possibility is that Mark calculated the time of his sacrificial death from the Passover when Jesus established the Holy Eucharist as a new covenant that was fulfilled in his sacrifice on the cross. His self-sacrifice began on Thursday, though it was completed on Friday, and he rose on Sunday.

(32) Jesus said all this quite openly, so that Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

Jesus said all this quite openly

A complaint of the Jews against Jesus was that he was unclear in revealing whether he was the Messiah. There were different opinions about him among the public. “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Mt 16:14). Once, during the Feast of Dedication, Jesus was walking at the Portico of Solomon in the Temple. Some Jews asked him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly” (Jn 10:24). His answer was that he told them, but they did not believe because they were not among his sheep. He added, “The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me” (Jn 10:25).

During the trial of Jesus, Annas, the high priest, questioned Jesus about his doctrine. He replied, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing” (Jn 18:20). However, often he spoke to them in parables or figures of speech. When the disciples enquired for its reason, he said, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted” (Mt 10:11). During his final discourse to the disciples, Jesus said, “The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father” (Jn 16:25). They acknowledged Jesus, “Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech. Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God” (Jn 16:29-30).

Peter took him aside

Peter took Jesus apart from others so he could converse in private. In Matthew’s gospel, when Simon (Peter) confessed, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus appreciated him for God’s revelation through him, renamed him Peter, promised that he would build the church upon him, and entrusted him the keys of heaven with the authority to bind and loose on earth (Mt 16:16-19). Peter felt the responsibility of representing the apostles. So, when he heard of the terrible events to happen, he was shocked.

The disciples did not know how Jesus was going to accomplish his mission as the Messiah. The popular concept of the Messiah was as a conqueror of the foreign sovereigns, and a universal king governing from Jerusalem. Instead, Jesus revealed for the first time that he would be arrested, tortured, killed, and rise from the dead. Peter wanted to block Jesus from subjecting himself to the enemies and become an absolute failure. However, he was worried how the master would respond to his objection. So, for privacy, Peter called Jesus apart from others.

began to rebuke him.

Matthew documents the words Peter used to rebuke Jesus: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” (Mt 16:22). Probably Peter might have used further arguments to convince Jesus to keep away from the sufferings and failure in this world.

(33) But Jesus turning around, and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter saying, "Get behind me, Satan! Your thoughts are not from God, but from man."

But Jesus turning around, and looking at his disciples

Jesus knew it was not Peter alone thinking in that line. He wanted to instruct to the other disciples as well. So, though Peter had moved Jesus away from others to speak in private, Jesus turned to the group that was behind them to address Peter in front of all.

rebuked Peter saying, "Get behind me, Satan!

Jesus, who acknowledged the Father’s revelation through Simon, honored by renaming him Peter (Rock), and appointed him as the head of the college of Apostles, suddenly changed the tone and stated that Satan was at work through him. The Satan that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden as a serpent, and Jesus in the desert, tempted Jesus through his beloved apostle Peter to turn away from the cross and win the crown easily. Jesus might have been going through the same struggle is clear from his prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42). So, Peter was unknowingly speeding up that temptation Jesus had. Just as Jesus said to Satan in the desert, “Get away, Satan!” (Mt 4:10), he said the same to Peter, seeing Satan’s concealed influence in him.

Satan knew Jesus came as his adversary. God said to Satan in the Garden of Eden, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Gen 3:15). So, Satan was striking at the heal of Jesus because Satan was afraid of the Son of Man who would strike at his head.

If Satan could make use of Peter to test Jesus, he will do the same to us through our family members and friends. At least some of them can influence us to do the worldly things against the will of God. They may encourage us to gain wealth through illegitimate means and discourage us from sharing it with those who need our help. They may instill pride in us to contest with others and avoid being humble in our dealings. Such people can lead us to immoral activities and prevent us from being faithful to family and to God. Our peer pressure can make us partners in fighting against the righteous and persecute the church or keep away from the church. Let us be vigilant, like Jesus, to read the mind of those who try to dissuade us from God’s ways.

“Your thoughts are not from God, but from man."

God distinguished between His thoughts and our thoughts through Isaiah. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways - oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isa 55:8-9). To find out and practice the will of God for us is our way of entry into the eternal life with Him. “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever” (1Jn 2:15-17).

The thoughts from God are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: ‘charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity’” (CCC-1832). The thoughts from men are: “pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia” (CCC-1866).

Though Peter had insight from God when he said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16), that got reversed when Jesus revealed the imminent sufferings he had to undergo before his victory. Without understanding the divine plan, Peter rebuked Jesus to think in the human way. Jesus objected to it and won his test Satan made through the prominent disciple, Peter.

When Jesus rebuked Peter for his human reaction on the sufferings for the Kingdom of God, all the apostles learned their lesson. After the inauguration of the church on the Feast of Pentecost, the apostles and other disciples followed the will of God, sacrificing their human aspirations.

The Conditions of Discipleship.

(Mk 8:34) Then he called the people and the disciples to him and said, "If anyone wants to be my follower, he must forget himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

Then he called the people and the disciples to him and said

So far, Jesus was talking to Simon Peter and the apostles. Though Jesus was traveling through a lonely region, many have been waiting to see him at a distance, probably conversing with the other disciples. Jesus invited them all to come close to him so he could communicate effectively. Besides the apostles, he had a message to his listeners who would like to follow him.

Though Jesus came down to the earth as one among us, those who need salvation must approach him as an expression of their interest. Jesus invites us with the following words: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt 11:28-30). Unless we go to the church where Jesus meets us for his sharing of the Word of God and his Body and Blood, we cannot get full nourishment from him.

If anyone wants to be my follower,

“If anyone” stands for all people who wish to become followers of Jesus. Jesus had two types of disciples: (1) People like the apostles who left everything and followed Jesus full time. (2) Those who took care of their family while working for the Kingdom of God. The full-time servers of the church, including priests, religious, and missionaries, belong to the first category. All other Christians belong to the second classification. In order to be a follower of Jesus, he requests three steps: Deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow him.

he must forget himself

How can a person forget himself or herself to follow Jesus? It means giving up the sinful selves and worldly aspirations for the sake of God. It is a life dedicated to build up the Kingdom of God through selfless service. Jesus is the best example. St. Paul articulated this: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:3-11).

When a rich man approached Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus said, “Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” That was the self-denial Jesus asked him to do. “At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions” (Mk 10:17-22). He could not deny himself by renouncing his wealth. That was his hindrance to become a follower of Jesus and his ambition to inherit eternal life.

The apostles left their family, profession, house, and other possessions. They became examples of forgetting themselves. Peter asked Jesus, “We have given up our possessions and followed you.” He said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive [back] an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come” (Lk 18:28-30). So, Jesus promised reward of joy in this world and in the afterlife for those who give up the self for the Kingdom of God.

Forgetting oneself also involves risking one’s life for the sake of the kingdom. The apostles and the early Christian community took this risk, and many became martyrs. Throughout the history of the church, we have thousands of missionaries and other Christians who leave everything to take up the mission of Jesus.

take up his cross

Cross was originally a symbol of curse, torture, and punishment. When Jesus accepted it as an expression of his sacrificial love and redemption of humanity, it received a spiritual dimension. Jesus’ statement to take up the cross of each one presumes that all have sufferings of their own in this world that we have to bear with Jesus for his mission. This cross is not what people naturally face, but the challenges one voluntarily takes up for the sake of God’s Kingdom

A precondition to become a disciple of Jesus is to take up the cross and follow him (Mt 10:38; Lk 14:27). Luke adds carrying of the cross on a “daily” basis: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). Though crucifixion was the culmination of the sacrifice of Jesus, his whole life from the time of incarnation was filled with sufferings of daily life. So also, the disciple’s daily life should be a voluntary self-sacrifice for his mission.

Cross became a well-accepted symbol of Christianity with the conversion of Constantine the Great (B.C. 313). Based on his vision of the cross, he used it as the standard for his army. Christians use the sign of the cross in remembrance of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The true veneration of the cross is the rejection of the earthly ambitions, acceptance of hardships, and willingness to risk life for the preservation and propagation of faith.

St. Paul describes how he faced challenges for Jesus: “I am better than they with my numerous laborers; better than they with the time spent in prison. The beatings I received are beyond comparison. How many times have I found myself in danger of death! Five times the Jews sentenced me to thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with a rod, once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked, and once I spent a night and a day adrift on the high seas. On my frequent travels I have been in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my fellow Jews, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the open country, danger at sea, and danger from false brothers. I have worked and often labored without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty and starving, cold and without shelter. Besides these and other things, there was the stress day after day of my concern for all the Churches” (1 Cor 11:23-28).

A literal example of carrying the cross was Simon the Cyrene, who helped Jesus to carry his cross on the way to Calvary (Mt 27:32). The soldiers had to press him to carry the cross because he was worried that the onlookers might misunderstand him as the one condemned for crucifixion. Jesus walked along with him to take away his shame. That Simon is remembered always in the salvation history. When we carry the cross with Jesus, he will walk with us to make our shame and burden light. So, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt 11:28-30).

and follow me

Following Jesus, unlike becoming the disciple of the Rabbis of the time, is a lifelong commitment to dedicate one’s life to the mission of Jesus. That involves renouncing one’s personal gains, taking up the hardships of the mission, and imitating Jesus. Following Jesus involves the willingness to face the challenges, sufferings, rejection, and even martyrdom. The outcome of such discipleship is reward in heaven that no other Rabbi or leader can offer. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Lk 9:24). Only Jesus can assure a rewarding life after death. That makes Jesus different from other world leaders.

This verse was primarily a reply to Peter, who tried to convince Jesus to get out of passion. Peter and other disciples have to follow the same path of Jesus by taking up the cross, carry them throughout their lives, and offer their lives for building up of the church. Their sacrificial life and death led them to eternal glory.

When Jesus evaded to overthrow the Roman rule and establish a kingdom in this world, the apostles were disappointed. So, Peter asked Jesus, “‘We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19:27-29). That gave the disciples hope.

In the past, the emperor or king led the army on the battlefield. That was dangerous for the king because he would become the primary target of the enemy. The boldness and sacrificial leadership of the king gave enthusiasm to the soldiers on the battlefield. In the spiritual battle, Jesus led the disciples in the front, risking his life. Many of those who followed him also took such bold step and became martyrs. His sufferings and victory gave the Christians self-confidence and enthusiasm to fight against the spiritual enemy and to spread the Kingdom of God.

(35) Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel will save it.

Whoever wants to save his life will lose it

Jesus presents a reversal of life of this world and the world to come. If one’s interest is only in the comforts and achievements of this world like the rich man in the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus, his afterlife will be a tragedy. We are in a temporary world of test. Our permanent home is heaven or hell. We will end up one of these depending on how we use our worldly resources, our time, and talents.

whoever loses his life

Life is valuable and no one must take his own life (Eccl 7:17). However, Jesus demands his disciples to dedicate their lives for the Kingdom of God (Lk 14:26). Such persons might face persecution and even martyrdom. Jesus told his disciples, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:20). He promised eternal reward for those who dedicate their lives for his kingdom (Mk 10:30). Unlike others, Jesus could offer such a reward in the afterlife because he came down from heaven.

for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel

Jesus here equates the gospel with himself because he is the Word became flesh. Dedicating one’s life for the gospel or for building up the church is a commitment to Jesus because he is the head of the church.

will save it.

Preservation of eternal life is valuable than the preservation of temporal life in this corrupt world. Jesus exemplified that in his own life.

(36) What good is it to anyone to gain the whole world and lose his own self?

Worldly accomplishments and methods to achieve them are in contrast with those of the heavenly. World offers what the Satan offered Jesus during his temptation in the desert: misuse of power, dominion over the world, and cheap popularity. Those who crave for excessive wealth, conveniences, dominion, and fame will be tempted to use unethical means and exploitation of others to achieve their goal. The scribes, Pharisees, and priests who confronted Jesus were pursuing worldly means for their selfish triumphs.

The Bible gives examples of self-centered people. In the parable of the rich fool Jesus taught (Lk 12:16-21), the rich man, whose land produced a bountiful harvest, decided to build large barns to store his produce for his luxurious living. Then came God’s voice, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” He should have shared his blessings from God with his starving neighbors to gain a reward in heaven.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man and his five brothers cared only for themselves and did not help to lift the lives of Lazarus and others like him. The rich man ended up in the netherworld just because of that reason (Lk 16:19-31).

Some Bible characters preferred temporal happiness by losing their glorious future. Esau sold his birthright as the firstborn to his younger brother Jacob for bread and the lentil stew (Gen 25:29-34). A rich young man approached Jesus to get advice for attaining eternal life. Jesus said, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mt 19:21). He went away sad, unwilling to do it. Judas Iscariot, who left everything and followed Jesus as an apostle, later desired wealth under the influence of Satan. He betrayed Jesus and ended up in suicide. By the end of his public ministry, referring to Judas and Psalm 41:10, Jesus prayed to his Father, “… none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled” (Jn 17:12). St. Paul writes of Demas, his fellow worker (Philem 1:24): “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica” (2 Tim 4:10).

The world history presents many greedy sovereigns who waged war for extending their kingdom, killing many people and causing enormous destruction for others. Such people, like Alexander the Great (356 BC-323BC), Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) had tragic ending after their ambitious fights for wealth, power, and popularity. “The covetous are never satisfied with money, nor lovers of wealth with their gain” (Eccl 5:9). They face powerful temptation to do evil for their selfish goal and end up in the destruction of themselves and others. “Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Tim 6:9-10).

Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mt 19:23-24). The hurdle of the wealthy to reach heaven is the difficulty they have for voluntarily sharing their resources with the poor. When the disciples who heard this asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” the reply was, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Mt 19:25-26). The conversion of Levi (Matthew) and Zacchaeus are examples of such salvation by the divine intervention.

Forgetting the commandments of God who provides us wealth is a grave sin that leads to destruction. Before entry into the promised land, Moses reminded the Israelites, “Be careful not to forget the LORD, your God, by failing to keep his commandments and ordinances and statutes which I enjoin on you today: lest, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built fine houses and lived in them, and your herds and flocks have increased, your silver and gold has increased, and all your property has increased, you then become haughty of heart and forget the LORD, your God, … You might say in your heart, ‘It is my own power and the strength of my own hand that has got me this wealth.’ Remember then the LORD, your God, for he is the one who gives you the power to get wealth, by fulfilling, as he has now done, the covenant he swore to your ancestors. But if you do forget the LORD, your God, and go after other gods, serving and bowing down to them, I bear witness to you this day that you will perish utterly. Like the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so shall you too perish for not listening to the voice of the LORD, your God” (Deut 8:11-19).

Often one becomes rich by unjust means that is punishable because of the exploitation of others. That needs to be rectified like Zacchaeus, who declared to Jesus his willingness for restitution by saying, “if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over” (Lk 19:8). Others might inherit wealth or gain prosperity by God’s blessings and their hard labor. Still, they should share their resources with others who need them.

Our eternal soul and its salvation are more important than the comforts of this life. We should seek joy in sharing than happiness in acquiring wealth for ourselves. We have to realize, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). As we journey to heaven, we should convert out worldly riches into spiritual assets for the eternal glory in the afterlife. St. John advises, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever” (1 Jn 2:15-17).

Ecclesiastes says, “For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it” (Eccl 2:21). So, Jesus teaches us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt 6:19-21).

(37) And what can he offer to buy his own self back?

Once the life in this world is over, no one can recover the lost grace. That is illustrated in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Abraham could not even send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool the rich man’s tongue while he was suffering torment in the flames of the netherworld (Lk 16:24). No wealth left behind in the world can save the one after his death. He could have used it for virtue while he was alive in this world. Missed opportunities will never return.

Psalm 49 presents the fate of the selfish who ignore God and the poor. “This is the way of those who trust in themselves, and the end of those who take pleasure in their own mouth. Like a herd of sheep, they will be put into Sheol, and Death will shepherd them. Straight to the grave they descend, where their form will waste away” (Ps 49:14-15). The psalm continues: “Do not fear when a man becomes rich, when the wealth of his house grows great. At his death he will not take along anything, his glory will not go down after him. During his life his soul uttered blessings, ‘They will praise you, for you do well for yourself.’ But he will join the company of his fathers, never again to see the light. In his prime, man does not understand. He is like the beasts - they perish” (Ps 49:17-21). Thus, the most valuable part of a person, the eternal soul, will be lost beyond recovery.

(38) I tell you: If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words among this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words

The elite Jews were ashamed of accepting Jesus as the Messiah.

1. The disciples of Jesus were ordinary people or past sinners. Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen, and Matthew was a tax collector.

2. Jesus was not observing Sabbath in the traditional sense. Instead, he was healing the sick on that day.

3. While performing miracles, Jesus was absolving sins that only God could do. So, they accused him of blasphemy.

4. He was dining with the tax collectors and sinners like Zacchaeus.

5. Jesus was criticizing the scribes and Pharisees using harsh terms like hypocrites, blind guides, brood of vipers, and whitewashed tombs.

6. He was reinterpreting the Laws of Moses like adultery, divorce, retaliation, and murder, giving importance to the intentions behind the sins.

7. Jesus allowed his disciples to break the Jewish traditions like washing of hands and Sabbath observance.

8. Jesus’ ministry seemed to be a failure at the end of his public ministry because of his arrest, public trial, physical and mental torture, and shameful death on the cross.

9. Jesus favored Samaritans and Gentiles through his parables and dealings with them.

So, the elite Jews were ashamed of acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah and rejected him. Jesus also will discard them at his second coming in glory to judge the living and the dead.

The words of Jesus represent his teachings that were restoration of the original commandments of God on Mount Sinai. Because of the adamant nature of the sinful Israel in the wilderness for 40 years, Moses had to lighten some laws as given in the book of Deuteronomy. Jesus purified the distorted versions and misleading traditions developed after Prophet Malachi for over 400 years when there was no prophet in Israel. The scribes and Pharisees rejected the refined teachings of Jesus. Hence, there will be a counter rejection from the part of Jesus at his second coming.

Jesus had his future glory in mind when he took up the shameful death. “For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). The glorious second coming of Jesus and the reward he promised to his faithful motivated the Christians to uphold him in times of persecution. St. Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (Rom 1:16). The faithful Christians were proud of their belief that assured them of salvation.

among this adulterous and sinful generation

Why did Jesus degrade the society in which he preached as an adulterous and sinful generation? We should understand adultery in a moral and a spiritual sense. Besides marital unfaithfulness prevalent in the society, people were also unfaithful to God that is spiritual adultery. Both are breaking of the covenantal relationship and grave sins.

The relationship between God and Israel was compared to that of a husband and wife (Isa 54:5). Worshipping other gods was equivalent to adultery because it was Israel’s breaking the covenant with the Almighty God. God found Israel as, “Adulterous wife, taking strangers in place of her husband!” (Ezek 16:32). Ezekiel chapter 16 presents Israel’s adultery with other gods and nations. The scribes and Pharisees adulterated the Word of God with their false applications. Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees as an adulterous generation when they asked him for a sign from heaven to prove his identity (Mt 12:39; 16:4). St. James presents friendship with the world as enmity with God and calls such people adulterers (Jm 4:4).

Isaiah told of Israel, “Ah! Sinful nation, people laden with wickedness, evil offspring, corrupt children! They have forsaken the LORD, spurned the Holy One of Israel, apostatized” (Isa 1:4). Besides adultery, the contemporaries of Jesus were a sinful generation. He used harsh words against the scribes and Pharisees. He addressed them saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites” (Mt 23:13,15,23,25,27,29), “blind” guides (Mt 23:16,17,19,24,26), and “You serpents, you brood of vipers” (Mt 23:33). On the outside they appeared righteous, but inside they were filled with hypocrisy and evildoing (Mt 23:28). So, Jesus advised his disciples and the crowd, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi’” (Mt 23:2-7). St. Peter in his first speech on the day of Pentecost also said, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40). So, the Christians should differ from the non-Christians and non-practicing Christians around them. They must boldly give witness to Jesus and his gospel with no delicacy.

the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him

This gospel passage is more meaningful if we understand it in the background of the severe persecution of the early church. During that time of crisis, many became martyrs for the church upholding their faith in Jesus. Whereas some others wavered and renounced the church to preserve their earthly life. Jesus said he will in turn, forsake those who do so. A Christian was an outlaw at that time. Some even felt ashamed or afraid of pronouncing their Christian identity. Jesus, who took up shameful conditions in his earthly ministry, will also uphold a negative approach to those who rejected him when he comes again.

when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Though the incarnation of Jesus was a humble life, his second coming will be different. When he returns with the holy angels (Mt 25:31) he will manifest His Father’s glory (Mt 16:27) in the shekinah cloud (Dan 7:13). “He will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Mt 25:31-32). “Then he will repay everyone according to his conduct” (Mt 16:27).

(Mk 9:1) And he went on to say, "Truly I tell you, there are some of those standing here who will not die before they see the kingdom of God coming with power."

And he went on to say, "Truly I tell you”

“Truly I tell you” is a formula Jesus used to introduce a significant announcement. It affirms the truthfulness of what follows in his statement.

there are some of those standing here who will not die before they see the kingdom of God coming with power.

The kingdom of God refers primarily to the rule of the Almighty over the entire universe with no territory, because everything belongs to God with no border. “The LORD has set his throne in heaven; his dominion extends over all” (Psalm 103:19). In a specific sense, Israel was the kingdom of God because God’s kingdom is a spiritual rule over the lives and hearts of those remain faithful to God. Jesus reconstituted it, forming the church with Jesus as its head. This kingdom is spiritual, and that is why Jesus said to Pilate: “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (John 18:36). The church is only a foretaste of God’s kingdom that will happen later in its fullness when the time of redemption will give way to the time of judgement at the second coming of Christ.

God will govern his kingdom that is eternal, peaceful, free from any struggle, and is open only for the faithful children of God. “In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever.” (Daniel 2:44). Thus, the Kingdom of God has different stages. It was initially established in the world at large, then among the chosen people of Israel, Jesus renewed it by establishing the church, and it will come to its perfection with his second coming.

When Jesus announced this statement in Mark 9:1, the church was not established. It happened only on the day of Pentecost with the descent of Holy Spirit on the apostles. Wonders happened from that very day. Apostles boldly preached the gospel despite their life threat from the Jews. They got the gift of tongue (Acts 2:4-6). At the first speech of Peter, 3,000 persons were baptized (Acts 2:41). “And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

Despite the oppression from the Jews, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and the persecution from the Romans, the church continued in spiritual strength and spread to all nations. Many of the listeners of Jesus, including the disciples, were witnesses to this triumphant development of the church in their lifetime. Some people misunderstood this passage with an imminent Parousia.

MESSAGE

1. Jesus is the most universally reputed celebrity. Who is Jesus for us? Unlike the non-Christians, we believe he is the way, the truth, and the life. Let us keep up our true faith in Jesus and work with his church for the salvation of all.

2. Like Peter, who with good intentions tried to convince Jesus to evade his passion, we also might get such temptations from our family members, friends, and others to go against God’s plan for us. Let us be vigilant to win over false impulses in our spiritual journey to heaven.

3. Jesus said, "If anyone wants to be my follower, he must forget himself, take up his cross and follow me.” What do we have to renounce to follow Jesus? Are we willing to work for Jesus and his church?

4. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel will save it.” Are we greedy to amass wealth in this world and to enjoy it ourselves? How willing are we to share our time, talents, and resources for the poor and the church?

5. Jesus is asking, “What good is it to anyone to gain the whole world and lose his own self?” If God ends our life today, how much treasure do we have in heaven? Will God select us for eternal reward? What do we need to do to gain more treasure in heaven?

6. Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words among this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Are we part of this adulterous and sinful generation? Do we lag in our faith in Jesus and religious practices, including charity? Will Jesus be proud of us to introduce us to the Father after our death? What do we need to do to enhance our impression of Jesus?