Mark ends chapter 8 with one of several futile attempts by Jesus to convince his disciples about his mission on Earth and how it will end. They just don’t get it. So, as usual, he changes tack and talks about the here and now. Beth Neilson-Chapman in her incomparable song “Happiness” sings:
The past is gone and all for naught, the future cannot be controlled
And the only moment we can hold is this one going by.
It is all about our behavior now at this moment, not what we plan to do, how we plan to behave, how we plan to spend our money, how we plan to devote time to our loved ones and those in need, it is about what we are doing right at this moment; here, not there, now, not then. It may be the only moment we have.
The concern that Jesus is reported as having is that we may be doing things for our own comfort and not for our long-term growth and happiness: “Self-help is no help at all, self-sacrifice is the way, my way, of saving yourself, your true self” (Mark 8:36-37). Considering that nearly all the examples presented to us in the media are about how to make life better for ourselves, we have an uphill struggle to modify our behaviour. We lack a role model, apart from the life of Jesus, that is, and of all the other great human examples who have shown divinity in their lives of love and self-sacrifice.
Ben Elton explores this theme in his first novel “Stark” the story about secret consortium with more money than God, and the social conscience of a dog on a croquet lawn. What’s more, the consortium knows that the Earth is dying. The consortium is opposed by a group of people classified by society as losers; you would have to read it to find out whether they were successful. God has a habit of taking those whom society has dismissed and putting them to work to change the world. Often they don’t enjoy our home comforts but seem to be satisfied without. Jesus says: What good would it do to get everything you want and lose your soul?
So, where to start? Sharing is good, sharing wealth, not just with those who are as poor as church mice, and worse, but proactively to create an environment where productive happiness and self-sacrifice are the norms that we present to the world. After all, what good is it to say that we should deny ourselves a TV just so that we can give a TV to a poorer family?
It takes a crank to cause a revolution (only those with an engineering bent will understand this double-entendre) and we must become cranks for God, for the Earth, for our future generations, for the safety of our own souls.