Lenten Devotional: April 5 | Mark 9:42-50

Tuesday, April 5, 2022 | Mark 9:42-50

The Rev. Bonnie-Marie Yager-Wiggan 

Some passages of Scripture are confusing. It can be a challenge to understand the context, to discern the meaning, or see the relevance to our lives today. The reading today can fall into that category (at least for me!) When confronted with a confusing or difficult passage of Scripture I am reminded that I do not read the Bible alone–it isn’t up to me alone to figure it out. That’s such a gift! 

Theologian N.T. Wright in his book Mark for Everyone helps makes sense of our text today:

There is a serious business afoot, which will have serious consequences; and unless the disciples realize this they will be in real danger…Virtually all readers agree that these commands (to cut off hands and feet) are not to be taken literally. They refer to precious parts of one’s personality – to aspects of one’s full humanness – which may from time to time cause one to stumble, which may, that is, bring about one’s ruin as a follower of Jesus. The immediate meaning seems to be that the disciples had better watch out in case their desire for honor when Jesus becomes king (if only they knew!) prevents them in fact from being his disciples at all (Mark 9:33-37). Anything that gets in the way must go.

Such sayings, though, demand that we apply them in various ways to wider issues. The first thing to note is that discipleship is difficult, and demands sacrifices. Many today write and speak as if the only purpose in following Jesus were to find complete personal fulfillment and satisfaction, to follow a way or path of personal spirituality which will meet our felt needs. That is hardly the point. God is at work in our world; so are the forces of evil, and there really is no time or space for self-indulgent spiritualities that shirk the slightest personal cost, or even resist it on the grounds that all the desires and hopes one finds within one’s heart must be God-given and so must be realized.

The stakes were high for the disciples. Jesus was stark in his metaphors for discipleship. Jesus knew what was coming, where the journey was taking him, and those who followed him. When Jesus calls, he bids us come and die. How will we answer his call? 

The Rev. Bonnie-Marie Yager-Wiggan has served as the Assisting Priest at Trinity Cathedral since September of 2021. She enjoys spending time with her husband Jamie and their Scottish terrier, Greyfriar.