What do you want – really, really want? I can guess some answers:
- sun, even a holiday in it
- Money – a lottery / Premium bond prize
- a Ferrari, / gadget / status symbol
But I seem to remember a few stories which centre around 3 wishes. All too often the first two are disasters, and the third has to be used to put things right. Reality breaks in, even to fairy tales! There are lots of things we want, without the consequences. Human nature always has eyes bigger than its stomach, and a desire that forgets the dangers of selfishness.
Today’s gospel (Mark 8:31-38) is very revealing about what Jesus really wants. We have just passed the high points: first, Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah (the promised great King), then Jesus was Transfigured. And Jesus takes that cue to tell them about his coming suffering. Peter had probably been dreaming of success – perhaps Prime Minister in Jesus government of Religious Restoration, a comfortable and honoured position. And Jesus says, “Get away from me, Satan, Your thoughts don’t come from God but from human nature!”
Jesus didn’t want to suffer; he wanted all the usual things – home, family, to be loved, accepted and respected. He was fully human, tempted as we are. But what did he want most? He knew that what he wanted above everything was to do what only he could do, and bring humanity back to God. He wanted to finish his ministry successfully.
He wanted the disciples to understand. Here, in chapter 8, twice in 9, and again in 10, he tries to make them face up to reality. But they can’t; only later do they remember, and understand.
“Have a cross”. “Expect a hard time as a Christian”. “Only those ready to die should apply”. As advertising slogans, these lack something important. Or do they? Jesus wanted all the usual things, but when it came down to it, he really wanted to serve God, no matter what. And he did. The disciples couldn’t get their heads around it, and went on arguing about who was most important, and other “key issues”. But when they saw how it played out in Jesus life and death, they knew what they really wanted, and they offered their service and their lives.
So what about us? What do you really want? Will you settle for Sunday lunch, a bit of TV or social media time, and life as usual? – or have you caught a glimpse of something worth so much, a vision of what God might do, that is enough to put you to service, no matter what?
Yes, the stakes are high, and the warnings on the tin of Christian life are scary and blunt. But can all the Christians be mad – or is it all the others?