Sometimes a good novel gets the better of us, and we skip to the end to find out what happens. The suspense is too much to endure, and we flick to the last page. It only takes a glimpse to reassure us that the hero survives, or to find out 'whodunnit', or to see what happens to the troubled couple; but we see it, and our impatience is placated.
That's probably what I find so thrilling about time-travel films – the idea of being able to find out what happens in the future. I wouldn't want to live 'in the future', but sometimes having certainty about what's going to happen next week, or in 10 years' time, would be great. Pining after such knowledge is ridiculous, then, when I realise Mark has given me a vision of the future in chapter 9 of his gospel.
As we work through the verses, we see a vision of Jesus in His resurrection glory, and a reminder that Scripture will be fulfilled. If there was any doubt that the gospel pattern means suffering and then rising, Mark has made it clear that it will happen. What is more, Mark describes the Father ripping open heaven to sanction the words of His Son in Mark 9:7. If there were any temptation to doubt Jesus' words in Mark 8:31-38, it's gone by the time we get to the end of this week's passage.
So how do we deal with that lingering doubt – what about us? We know that Jesus will rise again, but will we? Jesus is more glorious than us (and as readers of Mark we already know 'the ending'); so what can we expect in the future? Mark puts great effort to show Jesus' next miracle in resurrection terms (Mark 9:27-28): Jesus has the power to bring life from the dead. We've seen it before in Mark, but now we are reminded that this is the reality that follows losing our lives now. We may echo the sentiment of the faithless father (Mark 9:24), but Mark has given us no room to doubt. We can have greater certainty of this future than anything else. Resurrection glory follows suffering now, and we can trust Jesus' resurrection power for us.
Questions to ponder
- What reasons have you been given to believe Mark 8:31-38?
- Which is more certain – the next sunrise, or the return of Christ? Do we believe that?
- What stops you 'denying yourself'? What rights are you holding on to? How do the examples of John the Baptist and Jesus (Mark 9:9-13) help?
- How would meditating on this passage change your perspective on the future? When do you next have 15 minutes that you could spend thinking about it?If we're honest, we all find the idea of taking up our cross hard. What stops you from doing it? How has Mark helped us in Mark 9:14-29? Why is meditating on this truth now an important way of preparing for future persecution?