Daily Devotion 11 March 2021
Mark 8:27, 31-33 ‘Jesus’ Radical Teaching’
27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. 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.’
When were you last radicalised? Nowadays radicalisation is most likely to be initially associated with extreme behaviour and often violence or even terrorism. Yet the roots of the word ‘radical’ are precisely that – getting to the roots of a situation. As such, the word ‘radical’ can relate to language, music, surgery, mathematics, research, botany, politics, theology and maybe how we ‘do’ church post pandemic.
The disciples were constantly being radicalised by Christ’s teaching and actions. He broke the narrow Sabbath laws by healing the sick; he crossed restrictive sectarian cultural barriers and referred to the hypocritical Pharisees as a “brood of vipers”! The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) have been described as a manifesto for the marginalised. Turning the other cheek was in sharp contrast to the accepted norm of an ‘eye for an eye’ and of course he overturned the tables of the cheating money changers in the Temple forecourt. Jesus would never have been crucified if he had played things safe.
During Lent we contemplate Christ setting his face towards Jerusalem. Whilst on retreat in idyllic Caesarea Philippi in northern Galilee, the disciples challenged Christ’s resolve to travel to Jerusalem for Passover. Jerusalem was known as a place where prophets were persecuted. “Get behind me Satan” was Christ’s sharp reply to Peter who pleaded with him to stay safe in Galilee (an echo of the wilderness temptations).
If Christ by his very nature was ‘radical’, so must his church be. This means that we, as his followers, must always be wary of the safe option and be open to the possibility that the risky alternative might well be more Christ-like. The Gospel imperative is to be active in the causes of justice and peace. This means that any form of social or environmental abuse has to be challenged and should always be at the forefront of a churches’ agenda. Such a stance may well be unpopular with the status quo powers that be, whether ecclesiastical or political – maybe even some church-goers!
To be Christ-like is to be prepared to be radical. To be radical is to be open to progressive innovation and change. It means we keep on rediscovering the contemporary social implications that arise out of the roots of our faith. It means we are not afraid to be ‘Gospel gamblers’ – always excited by the prospect of being radicalised by Jesus, time and time again.
Lord, lead us and guide us by your Spirit into your ways of righteousness.
Help us to learn what this biblical word implies for us today and to act on what we learn. Amen.
Reflection and Prayer © 2021 Gordon Harrison.
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