To follow in the Way of the Cross
Today’s reading is the turning point in Mark’s Gospel. In the presentation of the life and ministry of Jesus found in the Gospel of Mark, the deeds of Jesus have shown Jesus to be the Son of God. Yet many, including Jesus’ disciples, have not yet realized his identity. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks the disciples for a field report by asking what others say about him. He then turns the question directly to the disciples and asks what they believe. Peter speaks for all of them when he announces that they believe Jesus to be the Christ. Now that the disciples have acknowledged Jesus as the Christ, Jesus confides in them the outcome of his ministry: he will be rejected, must suffer and die, and will rise after three days. Peter rejects this prediction, and Jesus rebukes him severely. The image of Christ that Jesus is giving is not the image of the Messiah that Peter was expecting. Jesus then teaches the crowd and the disciples about the path of discipleship: To be Christ’s disciple is to follow in the way of the cross.
We can easily miss the fear that Jesus’ words must have evoked in his disciples. Death by crucifixion was all too familiar as a method of execution in Roman-occupied territories. The path that Jesus was inviting his disciples to share meant tremendous suffering and death. This is the kind of radical commitment and sacrifice that Jesus calls us to adopt for the sake of the Gospel.