by Father Mike Stubbs
Do you have a doppelganger? Once, someone came up to me and began speaking to me as though I were another person.
At the moment, I was not dressed as a priest, so that confused the matter. It turned out that the person I was mistaken for also belonged to our parish. Others had already noticed the resemblance, so it came as no surprise. I knew that I had a doppelganger.
When Jesus asks the disciples in Sunday’s Gospel reading, Mk 8:27-35, “Who do people say that I am?” they report, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”
Apparently, Jesus has several doppelgangers. Significantly, all of them are known to be dead. By claiming that Jesus is one of these dead men, the crowd is imagining that Jesus has returned from the dead. Although mistaken in this belief, they thus are anticipating a great truth: the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Soon afterwards, Jesus makes a more direct prediction concerning his death and resurrection. Shocked, Peter rebukes Jesus for this. Although the text does not explicitly state it, we can suppose that Peter has focused on the part in the prediction about death. That is the stumbling block for Peter.
After setting Peter straight, Jesus then addresses his disciples and the crowd with his paradoxical teaching on saving one’s life: “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”
Once again, the theme of death and resurrection appears. By losing our life for Christ, we will save it in the resurrection.
The theme of death and resurrection runs throughout these moments in the Gospel reading.
The point is, Jesus wants death and resurrection to run throughout the lives of his disciples. He wants it to be the pattern of life that we follow. When we experience difficulties in life, he wants us to believe that God can make good come from them. When we face the sacrifices that we must make in order to follow his teachings, he wants us to remember that ultimately God will bring good from them, that the sacrifices are worth it.
That is what it means to embrace the cross: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” The cross will lead us to fullness of life.