34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
9:1 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
I backed up a little today, to continue with the passage we talked about yesterday, but also to point out something. The chapter and verse divisions in the Bible were added arbitrarily in the Middle Ages. They are often placed in the wrong place for the flow of the text. That is the case here. Chapter 9, verse 1, is obviously a part of the previous passage; Jesus is still addressing the same crowd, and this sentence is a part of that address.
We talked some yesterday about taking up our cross to follow Jesus – if you are not a Christian that sounds a little weird, doesn’t it? It probably sounded even more so to those of Mark’s day, for a cross was an instrument of torture used by Rome to assert authority and power. How could one voluntarily take up a cross? In fact, how could they follow one who had done so? Paradoxically, Jesus defeated evil by yielding to it – even death on the cross could not defeat God. The cross came to represent resurrection; when we see a crucifix, we think of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. But when we see an empty cross, in front of our worship area, on our steeples, we think of the resurrection. Christ is no longer on the cross; he is with us – HE IS RISEN!
And if we are to follow him, we must forget about “Self” and follow him in his will. We are not ashamed to be called Christians – followers of this Christ who ate with sinners and tax collectors, healed the lame and the leper, made the blind to see. We don’t do this for our own gain, but for the sake of the kingdom – here, we are referring to the Kingdom of God – and that means a time and space when people are in accord with the will of God, seeing Christ as their King. It would take the disciples a long time, and the cross, to realize that it was not an earthly, political kingdom.
And then Jesus says an odd thing – he says that some of those standing there would see the kingdom of God come in power before their death. Jesus is speaking here of the kingdom “now” – the kingdom inaugurated when he was enthroned – on the cross – and crowned – with thorns – and when he was laid in the tomb, but arose. When we give ourselves to follow him; when we earnestly seek to do his will; when we are willing to be last, rather than first; when we allow him to be a part of our hearts, and his Holy Spirit to empower us; then we are a part of that kingdom NOW. The Son of Man (a reference to Daniel’s apocalypse which Jesus often used to refer to himself) will indeed return in glory, and the kingdom “Not Yet” will be established. But in the meanwhile, we can live in his kingdom in the here and now.