Take Up Your Cross ~ The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI

MT 16:21-27   

Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

 

In Matthew 16:21-27 we hear Jesus tell his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem to complete his God-given mission to save the world by dying on the cross. This naturally comes as a shock to his disciples. After all, why would God send someone to something as ungodly as dying. Could there be another way for God to accomplish his goal, rather than having his only son suffer a gruesome fate? If dying was necessary, couldn’t it be done on the battlefield instead of a cross? Quick and easy, not long, drawn out, and filled with suffering. It is no wonder that Peter rebukes Jesus, since Peter was a fisherman who believed Jesus but could not comprehend the true purpose of Jesus’ mission here on earth.

Peter thought that the Messiah would be a military ruler who would drive out the Romans and restore Israel to the glory days of the reign of King David.  Peter rebuked Jesus because he took seriously his new role as the rock on which the church was built. He took this role so seriously that he thought he had a responsibility to make sure that Jesus’ ministry would eventually be successful, and thought it was his duty to rebuke Jesus, but Jesus puts him in his place . His place was behind Jesus as a follower, a role we too have to play.

Peter like Satan tried to deflect Jesus from the way of god just as Satan tries to deflect us from God’s way today. Satan likes to put traps in our path, and because he is smart he knows that the best time to trap us is right after some great victory when our guard is down.  In Peter’s case it was just after Jesus told him that he was going to be the rock that the church would be built on.  Just as in our lives, when we experience a victory, whether it is financial, emotional, or physical, there sometimes is an obstacle that follows. Satan wants us to follow the wide smooth road that leads to worldly things and sin. Jesus followed (as should we) the narrow rough road of life serving the Father.

Jesus wasted no time in dealing with Satan and neither should we. Peter had fallen for Satan’s temptations of allowing his thoughts to turn inward to himself and his worldly desires. So Jesus moved quickly to stop Peter’s wrong way of thinking. As an example, we should never allow thoughts of pride or sin to linger, we must stay focused on the path of righteousness and ask God to reveal His perfect will to us. When these thoughts do enter our heads we should do as Jesus did and say “Get the behind me Satan”

Jesus knew that the road he would have to travel would lead to self-denial and the cross, and he urged his followers then just as he urges us today to be prepared to pay the price and suffer the consequences if we want to follow the same path in life. One example is how Jesus repeatedly told his disciples of the suffering that awaited him in Jerusalem, but they really didn’t fully understand until after the resurrection. However after they saw the resurrected Christ, they knew He was the Savior.

We take up the cross of Jesus any time we suffer in some way for identifying with Him and His cause. “Cross bearing” does not always include affliction or persecution in general. It may mean denying what we deeply desire in order to do the will of God. When we obey Him, we position ourselves for great blessing and when we disobey him we open ourselves to the bidding of Satan.

When Jesus said that those who want to save their lives will lose them and vice versa, he was right. Our world is full of examples of people who have sold their souls by using sex, drugs, money, careers, possessions or alcohol to find happiness in life, only to be disappointed. Whatever a person is or becomes in his outward life, the particular quality of his or her soul will be the deciding factor in how he or she lives and how others experience him or her.

Jesus saves us by his death, by overcoming once and for all the power of sin. Sin no longer has a death grip over us. Christ makes it clear that God will forgive the sin that we confess and from which we repent in the sincere desire to renew our lives. Christ makes us realize that we are the most precious creatures in creation-creatures worth dying for.

As Jesus said, death lurks in the darkness of life. Whatever we hope to find outside of God’s plan proves elusive and temporary. Only by walking with Christ on the path of goodness will we find security and contentment we are seeking. If our lives are more important to us than our faith, our lives will be over.  If our faith is more important to us than our lives, we will be rewarded with eternal life. Our Christian life involves sacrifice because Jesus must come first in our lives. We are to be like Jesus-selfless and obedient, even to the point of death to self and life in Christ.

Heavenly Father, give us the strength to take up our crosses and follow you, give us the wisdom to drive around Satan and all his temptations while cruising down the rough and narrow road of life, guide us onto the path toward salvation and righteousness. Amen

 

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