Year B 24th Sunday: Mark 8:27-35

27 Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi.
On the way he put this question to his disciples, 'Who do people say I am?'
28 And they told him, 'John the Baptist, others Elijah, others again, one of the prophets.'
29 'But you,' he asked them, 'who do you say I am?'
Peter spoke up and said to him, 'You are the Christ.'
30 And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of man was destined to suffer grievously, and to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again;
32 and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter tried to rebuke him.
33 But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him,
'Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God thinks, but as human beings do.'
34 He called the people and his disciples to him and said,
'If anyone wants to be a follower of mine,
let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.
35 Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it;
but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.


Jesus is 'on the way' which will finally bring him to Jerusalem. He foresees what will happen to him there: suffering, death and after that: resurrection. In fact, it is what he had read in the Songs about the Suffering Servant, written by the prophet Isaiah (52:13-53:12). From the beginning he must have had the conviction that this vision referred to him; that he was meant to be the suffering servant.
At the same time he turns out to be the Messiah, as we hear today.
And at the same time he speaks about himself as the 'son of man' (a more literal translation would be 'son of the human'). That refers to a vision of the prophet Daniel (07,13-14). There a 'son of the human' receives the kingship and the authority from the hands of God himself. He must have had the conviction that he was the son of the human. (Interrogated by the High Priest later, he will affirm that he is the 'son of the human': 14:62!).
In Jesus, all the great lines of the Jewish tradition come together.


Speaking about his 'cross', what did he mean? Till this moment we have heard that Jesus did Messianic work by healing people, and how the religious leaders of his days turned against him. The Pharisees were always complaining to him (02:16.18.24). Finally they discussed with the Herodians how to destroy him (03:06). Later we will hear that the Scribes walk from Jerusalem to Galilee for three days to accuse him of being the worst devil of all (03:22-30), and that his family thinks that he is out of his mind (03:20-21)! What must this have meant to Jesus? We hear that today. He calls it his 'cross': being repaid with hatred and humiliation for doing good.

But it will not stop him. That is 'renouncing himself' and renouncing all the negative and painful feelings which could show up in his heart, and 'taking up' his cross. Doing good is, will be and must be the most important thing and it has to be continued, in spite of all the negative reactions and in spite of all the pain which it brings to himself. That is the way God thinks (cfr.vs.33).

After me

Jesus says to Peter, 'After me!' (vs.33). With these same words he had called Peter when he invited him to follow (01:17). May we conclude that this story is a (repetition of the) vocation story?

Picture Meditation

ca 2000, Peter Clare. Matthew Cycle. Private Collection.

Jesus - in red - is in discussion with Peter - in orange.

Jesus is surrounded by three seated listeners which we see from the back: two men and a woman. The artist places Jesus in the centre of the picture. But Peter tries to rise above him, inspired by the Satan, represented as a bag of bones in a deviant skin colour.

Jesus corrects Peter by pointing to the future, far away: how he will be crucified first and after that will be raised from the dead.

Among those who crucify him we discern a soldier, a bishop, a cardinal, a high Anglican vicar: members of the reigning class of Jesus' days, represented in clothes of our highly placed persons. And besides the soldier, we see a naked man from the back.

We notice that the gestures of the dead Jesus and the risen Jesus are the same. Only the colour of his naked skin is different.

Where am I in this picture? I try to identify myself which each of the figures. What would my feelings be, my words, my thoughts? What is finally my place?

by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ

St Mark's Gospel Reflections