This morning’s devotion was written by Sam Bush.

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! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (Mark 8:31-9:1, NRSV)

I was in the store the other day and the 1966 Beach Boys hit “God Only Knows” came blaring through the speakers. This song has made its way onto countless retail playlists and has long been accepted into the canon of mediocre shopping music. Nowadays it more represents consumer fatigue than it does “the most beautiful piece of music ever recorded,” as critics have said. I really wish I could hear it for the first time again.

I feel the same way about the “Jesus dying” thing. Having grown up in a Christian environment, at times it seems impossible to hear the Gospel with fresh ears. It doesn’t sound so absurd that “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected…that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” The story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is all too familiar for me, but it’s safe to say that back then, no one saw it coming.

Jesus talks very plainly about his death, yet Peter won’t have any of it. The idea of God’s Son being scorned, rejected and crucified is too outlandish to accept. And who can blame Peter? At this time Jesus has healed the sick, performed miracles, and given groundbreaking sermons, and so is earning a great deal of celebrity. In this position, influential figures rise to power—no one, especially at the pinnacle of a career, gives it up.

With 2000 years to theologize and theorize about Jesus, one might assume that the more familiar we become with the story, the more we develop as Christians. And yet nothing about the world has changed. Although the Gospel does manage to powerfully enter our lives, we are still unable to fully grasp its message. A friend of mine describes the state of the Western church as such: “It’s as if we have been vaccinated with a mild case of Christianity, which has protected us from catching the real disease.” We can’t help but delegate the Gospel to grocery store “muzak.”

Thank God the Gospel does not require our belief or conviction in order for it to be true. Unbelievable as it may be, Christ’s death and resurrection happened, and God’s abounding grace and forgiveness are real.