Year B Proper 19: Jesus, losers, the cross, and The Donald

Not that Donald. That Donald isn’t keen on losers. But Jesus is a total loser, and we like him all the better for it. Don’t we?

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan!…”

He 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. For 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. …Those 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.” (Mark 8:31-38)

Donald MacKinnon (aka [my] The Donald) wrote that

It is commonplace in theology to speak of the Resurrection as the Father’s Amen to the work of Christ; yet it is a commonplace to whose inwardness writers on the subject often attend too little. For if it does anything, it drives one back to find the secret of the order of the world in what Christ said and did, and the healing of its continuing bitterness in the place of his endurance. (1)

The secret of the order of the world in what Christ said is that those who want to save their life for later will lose it in the present; those who save their love for later will find their hearts hardened to stone when the moment comes; those who save their best for special occasions will watch it crumble to dust; and that those who squander their lives, their love, their best on the least, the littlest, the laughable and the loathsome; those who are not ashamed to weep for the lost and welcome the lousy, to waste their despair on the hopelessly wretched; they will be the ones who recognize life, the light of Christ, when they find it.

Those who are not ashamed to love recklessly, indiscriminately, foolishly, mortally wounded by opened hearts.

Because Jesus is a loser, betrayed by a friend that he knew he should know better than to trust, to whom he turned his cheek for another kiss.

To speak of Christ’s readiness to embrace failure and defeat is familiar in the almost casual language of traditional piety. In consequence it is easy to forget that the words should be used and should be understood as being used to state simple fact. (2)

Are we ashamed of the continuing bitterness of the world, and Christ’s endurance of it? Do we wish in our hearts that he would come down off that cross and smash it with their mallets and pile the pieces into a funeral pyre for all death and suffering, all grief and strife?

Of course; the crucifixion is a waste, and a shame. The Donald again:

It is sheer nonsense to speak of the Christian religion as offering a solution to the problem of evil. (3)

Even Jesus fell in the face of it. And yes, there is Resurrection. Thank God!

After which I refer you back to The Donald’s first comment above.

No, it isn’t easy. No wonder Peter took Satan’s side instead. Yet our hope is in Jesus, who fell on his face in the garden of Gethsemane, as human as we, and unashamed.


He is the child rolled up like a rug,
carried away in the night by parents
harried by war and fright;
he is the child that died;
he is the child that survived.

He is the earnest young man
cross-legged at the feet of his temple teachers,
a zealot with extreme dreams.
He is a radical:
                                       he is
love in a time of war; he is
laughter at a funeral;
he anoints the joyous with tears.
He despises misery and squanders charity.

He is the heart of the riot,
upsetting the apple cart,
pushing his luck.

He is the grand romantic gesture, rejected.
He has made a mockery of us all, and in
the marred, scarred mirror of his final shame,
we see that we would burn our own cross
before we would hang on it.


(1) MacKinnon, Donald, “Order and Evil in the Gospel”, in Borderlands of Theology and Other Essays, by Donald MacKinnon, and edited by George W. Roberts and Donovan E. Smucker (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2011), 96

(2) MacKinnon, “Atonement and Tragedy”, op.cit., 103

(3) MacKinnon, “Order and Evil in the Gospel”, op. cit., 92

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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