The readings for the Second Sunday in Lent reflect themes of following Jesus through the challenges of bearing the cross, through the challenges of suffering. The child of God humbly accepts troubles in life, continuing to trust his love. Instead of turning away from him to seek our own answers, we continue to serve God and trust he will deliver us. Salvation and suffering go hand in hand, for Jesus and for us too!

The season of Lent is a time of repentance and a time of discipline. You may choose a Lenten discipline such as abstaining from a particular food, giving more resources to the poor, or spending extra time in prayer and Scripture. All of these are noble pursuits that perhaps find their roots in Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel reading. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

The Hymn of the Day is “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart” (ELH 406). This section of stanza 2 reveals why this is a perfect hymn for today’s Gospel:

Let no false doctrine me beguile;
Let Satan not my soul defile.
Give strength and patience unto me
To bear my cross and follow Thee.

We see Peter’s false doctrine, his soul defiled by Satan, his inability to bear the cross and follow Jesus. And yet we know Jesus forgives and restores Peter, and Jesus forgives and restores us when we fail to follow him as well.

The Gospel: Mark 8:31-38
To the Jews of Jesus’ day there was a popular saying, ‘There will be no more misery when Messiah comes.’ Peter had just confessed that Jesus was the Christ (that is, the Messiah!), and now Jesus tells the disciples that the Son of Man must go to Jerusalem to be rejected by the religious leaders, and to suffer and to die. Peter’s well-meant discouragement of this idea is treated by Jesus as nothing less than Satan’s work. Because the cross and all it means is central to receiving eternal life, we need to embrace it as God’s plan for our life with him and be ready to put it before all else, even if it means suffering and even death.

Our crosses are a necessary consequence of the redemption Christ won—they are not the cause of that redemption. The Christian cross is only the suffering that comes as a result of following Jesus (e.g., persecution, the struggle of self-denial, martyrdom). It is not the other sufferings of living in the sinful world (e.g., a flat tire, a robbery, death from disease). Our crosses drive us to Jesus’ cross for both forgiveness and strength.

The Old Testament: Genesis 28:10-17
Unable to remain together with his family in Canaan because of his brother Esau’s intention to kill him for obtaining the birthright and blessing by trickery, Jacob was fleeing to Haran. Notice that Jacob’s suffering is largely his own fault. God lets Jacob suffer some of the consequences of his sins. But were there ever more beautiful promises given to one more obviously a sinner? Although Jacob was the covenant-bearer, his status was in retrogression. Cut off from the land promised by God to Abraham and his descendants, this dream re-established Jacob under the reassurance of God’s providing care through the ascending and descending angels.

The Epistle lesson: Romans 5:1-11
God promises to work all things for our good, and even suffering produces a positive outcome in terms of endurance, character and hope. Our suffering helps us to despair of ourselves and our own strength and to live by faith in Jesus’ suffering for us sinners. We cling to the suffering Savior and do not run away from our own suffering; both are gifts of grace. This isn’t based on feeling, but on fact. The fact that Christ died—not for good people but for sinners—assures us of our salvation.