Once upon a time there was a great teacher, a guru, who had many followers. People came from far and wide to listen, learn, and be enlightened by this man. There were one-on-one classes and apprenticeships for those who came to learn. When the students had finished with their lessons, the guru sent them into the world to share their knowledge with others as masters in their own right. Just before each student left, the guru would give each a special gift -- the teacher taught each student the mantra of life and death. Phrase by phrase the guru taught them until they had memorized it by heart.
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Oscar Wilde penned a powerful story about behaviors and definitions and justice called The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian was a handsome young man, a model of physical beauty and moral virtue. People complimented him on his good graces. Parents pointed to him as an example to their youth. One artist even painted an exquisite portrait of him.
"Have you seen it?" whispered the Barbie doll to her next door neighbour.
The next Barbie doll in line was instantly alert. There were five different Barbie dolls, who lived jumbled together in the toy cupboard but who were so jealous of each other that they rarely spoke. "Seen what?" asked the second Barbie doll, blue eyes darting all round the room.
"The Princess," replied the first Barbie with glee. "Caitlin's done her hair and it looks terrible!"
These verses from Mark's gospel are a call to commitment, a call to sacrifice, and a call to give up everything of earthly value in life. To say these are difficult verses is truly an understatement. It is pretty clear that the disciples are not at all ready for what Jesus is saying. They are not ready for Jesus to die and they certainly are not ready to die themselves.