Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. [from Mark 8]
“Follow me!” he said, “and I will make you fish for people,” and they left their boats and families and decided, on a lark, to set out with this guy and see what he had to offer. Adventure, learning, meeting people, being somebody.
“Follow me,” he said a couple of years later, “and you may end up giving your life.”
Sounds like the old bait and switch.
Adventure was the bait; adventure into real danger was the switch.
Learning was the bait; learning how to sidestep the religious laws they’d always held dear was the switch.
Meeting people was the bait; meeting people who wanted to do them harm—even physical harm, was the switch.
Being somebody was the bait; being somebody completely different from the person you used to be, being somebody who trudges around for three years, being somebody whose former life becomes a memory, being somebody whose life doesn’t turn out to be the fun you’d expected—that was the switch.
Jesus seems to have “lured” them—pardon the pun—with this fishing metaphor, then showed them that there was a much, much darker side to following him.
They’d expected fishing, not dying.
Happiness, not sacrifice.
Success, not the ultimate failure.
We like the stories about gaining life, not losing it. Yet this saying seems to be about both. If you set out to gain life you’ll end up losing it; if you start out willing to lose it, you will gain life.
What on earth?
It’s a hard teaching, not just for those disciples, but for every generation since.
As much as we’d like to, we cannot take the cross out of the Jesus story. If we do, we cheapen beyond belief the intent of God, which was always to be one with us, no matter what that meant.
Oh, dear. That really is the state of humanity, isn’t it? There is no life without pain or sacrifice or loss. The cross was God’s way of joining us in all of that.
So, really, when the disciples signed on for a long fishing trip, they were just signing on to be fully human. Because the essence of humanity is to be vulnerable to disease, poverty, and finally, death.
No matter how safe we play it, we all have signed on for all of it, whether we want it or not.
Refusing to accept that bad things happen doesn’t make them not happen.
But being willing to live with the cross in view, is an invitation to live fully, to open ourselves to each other and to God, because we don’t bear our crosses alone.
Whenever we have communion, we invite each other to come to the table, as we remember the death of the Lord until he comes again.
He is one of us. Let’s live in Christ’s service, willing to release our tight grip on the fear of death in order to live.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2012