With the announcement of Jesus’ death comes the serious news that Jesus’ disciple must be ready to carry his own cross and follow Jesus. It is particularly for this news that Mark writes his Gospel. He struggles to clarify the identity of Jesus, now revealed as one destined to be killed, but that identity is established so that the disciple can understand what is implied in following this figure. Jesus had said to Peter, "You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do", when Peter said that Jesus should not suffer greatly, be rejected and killed. The same must be said about the disciple; the disciple who wants to follow must think as God does, and that may include a cross to carry in following Jesus. That cross could be even martyrdom, and many think that Mark aimed his Gospel to deepen knowledge of Jesus so that the disciple would have the strength to accept a bitter end as did Jesus. But the sequence of words in Jesus’ statement reveal that perhaps other heavy weights may bear on the disciple as he follows Jesus: ’Take up your burden and (with it) follow me’. The ability to carry one’s cross depends on one’s willingness and ability to deny himself; this too is part of the news Jesus gives his disciple. Is there value to this cross-carrying? To avoid it, Jesus notes, is the lose life, the one thing one thinks he will save by avoiding the cross. Indeed, what good is greater than keeping one’s life? Finally, if one turns from the cross, is it not reasonable or logical that Jesus will turn from his disciple at the Judgment? The ’burden’ or ’cross’ Jesus speaks of here is the suffering a person endures for believing in Jesus; the ’cross’ is not a term here applied to other kinds of suffering. Certainly, martyrdom for what one believes is understood here; it seems to be the most obvious of sufferings, given the precarious situation of Mark’s readers in a Rome that is antagonistic to them. We will see, however, that there are indeed other ’burdens’ or ’crosses’ implied in discipleship; it is to encourage strength and fortitude in these matters, too, that Mark writes. It is the mystery of Christianity that is unveiled here: we follow a powerful, wise and holy Messiah and Son of God, but follow also a powerless, foolish and criminal Messiah and Son of God. Understanding what one has committed himself to in baptism means that one cannot be perplexed and fearful if one faces suffering for one’s faith. Jesus never stops being the Messiah of power, wisdom and holiness; we have not erred in our commitment to him. But he is more complex than what first appears, and the disciples did not understand this fully throughout Jesus’ entire life; as suffering, the contradiction of all that Jesus seemed to be, was an integral part of his life, so it is with the expectations of the disciple: trust in a great being, but readiness to follow him, shouldering one’s own cross. The key to what seems to be two disjointed parts of Jesus’ life, the key that makes his life not contradictory, but of whole cloth is obedience to his Father. This is the essential Jesus that remains the same through all his ups and downs; it is the same for the disciple. It is obedience to the One one knows and loves that will make possible for the disciple what Jesus knew would be his final outcome: life eternal, ’ to be raised up after three days’. Mark hopes, then, that he has given every reason to his readers to deepen their knowledge of and faith in the Messiah of glory, and to remain faithful, as did he, when faced with challenges to that faith, temptations to deny the faith and so save one’s life - a so-called saving of life, as Jesus teaches. Jesus’ final word, in 9, 1, means to make clear that the ’coming of the Son of Man (the figure of judgment)’ is not far away; the disciple cannot put off being faithful to Jesus who remained faithful to him. John Kilgallen, SJ