“Then [Jesus] began to teach [the disciples] 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.” Mark 8:31
Isn’t it a little eerie that Jesus is teaching his closest companions/followers about his coming suffering and death? I mean, this guy has shown clearly that he is God come to the earth, has shown them triumph after triumph over sickness and evil and death, but now he stands before them to say: “…and as much as you see me here alive and well, when we get to Jerusalem there’s going to be much ruckus. I know, I know, the people all love me and they’re starting to call me their king and even the Messiah! But, mark my words, it will turn on me, and the leaders will finally maneuver things to sentence me to death. Like any Roman criminal, I am going to be crucified. …and three days later I will rise again.”
Again, I don’t want to actually add to Jesus’ words, but this is my understanding of the moment. It’s strange. It’s a great example of how us humans struggle to take Jesus at his own word. We’re more than ready to listen when there’s healing happening, or he’s telling someone, “Your sins are forgiven!” We claim to put our trust and allegiance in him, totally. But then he goes and says something “out of character.” I mean, this statement in Mark 8 shouldn’t be terrible news, it ends with a great conclusion — “I will rise again.” But we usually get the tone, especially from Peter’s reaction, that there are mixed feelings and that the disciples weren’t taking this to heart. After all, later they deserted him for the most part when these things were being fulfilled.
But Jesus still tried; as weird as it must have been for him to talk about himself this way, and to know what was coming. He was that concerned about his people; he wanted them prepared. I think he wanted them, in those darkest of nights while he was in the tomb, to remember and hope. I think he wanted them to start to free their minds up to see who the Messiah really would be, what his sacrifice meant, and how it had implications for the whole human race, even all creation. Those are big stretches to make for the fisherman or tax collector.
Today, know that Jesus, who is alive and at work today, treats you and me with that same level of care. He is one to prepare us for what lies ahead, even before we know we need it. Sometimes that preparation won’t sink in until the time is right. He’s also one to disregard all concern for himself, to rescue the ones he loves. And he loves every single one of us. So, take a true Lent, and prepare.