Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
And to bear the cost
Of giving up our false self.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear you,
To follow you in all of life,
To Jerusalem and
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Season of Lent: Week Two
The Lenten journey leads us now to walk with Jesus and the disciples, north of the Sea of Galilee to Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27 ff.) On the way Jesus withdraws into retreat, and takes us with him . We wait as he prays (Luke 9:18ff).
Like the desert, waiting in retreat does not seem to have much to offer. It is here in the silence and solitude that our false self, driven by its own compulsions and informed by the anxieties and greed of the world’s culture, becomes restless and impatient and can kidnap our attention from being present for God.
After a time Jesus turns from prayer to his disciples and asks, “Who do people say that I am?” Among the villages of Galilee and Caesarea Philippi these followers of Jesus have heard the local gossip and opinions. They answer, “John the Baptist and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” Obviously, the people do not see Jesus as any ordinary man. But now Jesus asks a personal question,
“But who do you say that I am?” “Who am I for you?”
Be still for a moment and reflect on who Jesus is for you.
It is Simon Peter who speaks an answer to Jesus’ question, “You are the Messiah.” Yes, Jesus is the Messiah. And Jesus affirms and blesses Simon as he speaks this insight, a revelation which has been given him by God.
However, for Simon Peter, and the disciple, the Messiah was expected to be the one who would free the nation of Israel from the domination of the Roman Empire, and restore the kingdom and rule to Israel, who would sit on the throne of David as king. And they could not imagine anyone better than Jesus to do this. So when Jesus begins to teach them that he, “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,” they are stunned. In Luke’s gospel these disciples confess that they “did not understand this saying; . . . And they were afraid” (Luke 9:45).
In reaction to this dark, fearful, and unbelievable declaration, Simon Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him. “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22). But as we watch and listen, Jesus turns and says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (Mark 8:33.
It is in the wilderness that we begin to get in touch with where our mind lodges—what we attach our thinking to. We discover we are attached to what our self wants – in the way of safety, things, power, control. We begin to realize that our self holds distorted ideas: our conception of who God is and what Jesus is about needs to support our attachments. Hence we too react when Jesus says that in following him we will need to embrace his suffering, death, and resurrection. That like him we are to deny our false self, take up our cross, and follow him.
But as we listen to Jesus we realize that it is in losing our false self for the sake of Jesus and good news of what God is now doing–to rescue the world from its captivity to death, greed, power, and the domination of the lie which has had its way since Eden–that we find our true life and self.
Being in the desert is no escape from the realities of the world’s system, rather it is a place where God frees us from our captivity to what the world and our false self offers. This season in the wilderness of Lent releases us gradually from our attachments and from the myriad of distractions which keep us occupied and unable to see God’s presence and work within and around us. Gradually we are freed to be in the world, but not of the world.
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us.
Help me to see as you see,
To recognize your presence
In the desert of Lent,
And to learn God’s way.
Season of Lent: Week Two
- 2/27 Monday: Mark 8:(27-30)31-33
- 2/28 Tuesday: Mark 8:34-38
- 2/29 Wednesday: Psalm 22:23-31
- 3/1 Thursday: Genesis 17:1-7,15-16
- 3/2 Friday: Romans 4:13-25
- 3/3 Saturday: Mark 8:(27-30)31-33
- 3/4 Sunday: Mark 8:34-38