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Daily Devotional • March 26

Hannah Howland
The Necessity of the Cross
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 8:31-9:1

31 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. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 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.”

34 He called the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 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. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” 1 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah is still hanging in the air when the moment abruptly shifts. Jesus begins to teach that he must suffer, and be rejected, and killed — altogether not very messiah-like behavior. So, it comes as no surprise when Peter, riding high on his declaration of faith, rebukes Jesus. We have no glimpse into what Peter says in his rebuke of Jesus — we only know he took him aside and rebuked the very one he just declared Messiah. 

And Jesus, in turn, sharply rebukes Peter with the words, “Get behind me Satan.” Peter, the rock, is likened to Satan.
There is a satanic impulse that wishes to remove the obstacle of the cross — that wishes for messiah-ship without all this messy “cross business.” There is a vain dream that Peter seems to harbor of discipleship without the stumbling block of the cross. 

Why the cross? Why Lent? Why a season that begins with a reminder that you are dust and to dust you will return? Why must the Son of Man, and all who follow him, be those who walk with the limp of carrying crosses and with the scars of being hung on them? 

Our gospel lesson concludes with Jesus saying that some will not pass away before they see the kingdom of God come in power — as those who to this day await the coming of Christ we pause and know he could not have meant that kind of coming — but what would occur shortly is the death of Christ on a criminal’s cross. “The Kingdom of God has come with power”? Well not to our Peter-like eyes. But then again we are setting our minds on things human and not divine. On power that looks like power and not on a cross that looks, for all the world, like defeat.  

Hannah Howland lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband, Curtis. She is in her final semester at Duke Divinity School and worships at All Saints Anglican Church.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, Longwood, Florida
The Anglican Church of South America
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