When a teacher repeats a particular lesson, it lets the students know that the instructor considers the material to be very important. The teacher does not want the students to miss what is being taught, so he or she presents the material not once but twice.
Such repetition also indicates that what is being taught will likely appear on the final exam.
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 9:30-37), Jesus is “teaching his disciples and telling them, ‘The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.’”
That is the same point that Jesus made in the Gospel reading we heard last Sunday (Mark 8:27-35). After Peter professed that Jesus was the Christ, we were told that Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.”
In both cases, Jesus taught his disciples that he would not be a Messiah of power and glory but one who would suffer rejection and the cross.
Jesus makes that same point for a third time later in the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel (Mark 10:33-34).
The fact that Jesus instructs his disciples more than once about his future rejection, suffering, death, and resurrection, and the fact the Church places that teaching before us for two consecutive Sundays, indicates the importance of that instruction. It tells us something about Jesus and about our lives as Christians.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, after telling his disciples about his future, Jesus teaches them they are not to seek after power and glory. Greatness is to be found by showing mercy and compassion to the weak, by being “the last of all and the servant of all.” Greatness is to be found by looking out for the powerless rather than looking up to the powerful.
To drive home that lesson, Jesus embraces a child who in that culture had no rights, status or influence and says, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.”
Last Sunday, after speaking about his suffering and death, Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”
Jesus experienced rejection, suffering, and death because he was faithful to the Father and faithful to the message of the Gospel. If we strive to follow his example in a world that increasingly rejects God, the values of the Gospel, and the spiritual dimension of human life, we may find ourselves carrying a cross of suffering, ridicule, and rejection. And some Christians may literally lose their lives.
Jesus let his disciples know more than once that suffering, rejection, and death would be part of his life, but that resurrection would follow.
By his words and by his example, Jesus teaches us that the same pattern also holds true for Christians. It is not easy to put aside our will to follow God’s will, it is not easy to show our Christian faith by our words, actions, and priorities in life. It takes courage and it can bring suffering. But in the end, it leads beyond death to resurrection and to new life.
Jesus our teacher wants to be sure that we do not miss his message, that is why he says it more than once.
© 2021 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski