From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance6to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life7 will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Then Jesus told his Disiciples, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Deny himself, pick up his cross, follow me.
In the gospel, Peter confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the son of the Living God. Then Jesus begins to tell them what that actually means. He will god to Jerusalem. He will suffer. The elders, the Chief Priests and Scribes will kill him. On the third day he will rise again.
It wasn’t the concept Peter had of the Messiah, the Christ. It wasn’t what anyone thought of the Messiah. It is one of the reasons that Christ was hesitant to identify himself as the Messiah while he worked in Galilee. He would silence the demons that would identify him as such. He would ask people not to speak about what he had done.
But now the disciples have identified him as the Messiah, so he has to let them know what this means. And Peter isn’t having it.
The disciples have understood the Messiah in terms of earthly glory. He was supposed to become king. And it was all of this that Jesus continually rejected.
He would rather deny himself. He would go to Jerusalem. He would suffer and die. And only then would the disciples see his glory, and come to understand the true nature of the Christ and his Kingdom in the resurrection. In losing his life, he would give us opportunity to find ours.
So what is this? What does it mean to deny one’s self? To pick up your cross? To follow him? How do we try to save our lives?
Of course behind all of this is the cross. There is the willingness to accept martyrdom if that be your plight, and accept life if you be inflicted with it. To live with persecution humbly, and accepting your crosses when they come.
Crosses when they come. There are those who go looking for crosses to carry, and hills to die on. They chase martyrdom. Most often they turn Christianity into some sort of political movement or Cultural Revolution. They go about with a look at me Christianity, that loses its focus on Christ and forgiveness. Look at what a strong Christian I am! And Paul warns not to be to proud lest you fall.
There will come time enough when a stand will have to be taken. Martyrdom isn’t Martyrdom if you chase it. It’s just suicide. Martyrdom, the word means witness. It is supposed to be something we do that makes a confession of Christ. And yet it is something that Jesus tells us to avoid if we can. “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” Avoid if we can. But if we can’t?
Because it would be so easy to avoid it if we simply didn’t confess him. It would be so easy to avoid him, if we simply didn’t let his life, his death and his resurrection have its way with us and makes its stamp upon our own life. But he rose from the dead! And with that he offers so much more than this world could ever offer with all its glory, or the fame of martyrdom! He didn’t come to reform this world as so many wanted him to do. He didn’t come to set up a better government, or give a better set of laws. He came to put this world to death by dying to it. Think about it! The author of life he is called. God. The Son of the Living God. The creator of the world. He died, and with him so did his creation. It’s dead. It has nothing to offer now. Not this world. But then he rose, the first fruits of the new creation. Now we who die with him. We who lose our life for his sake? Where? In Baptism. That’s our martyrdom, this is where we die for his sake. He puts his seal upon us. He stamps our life. And there we rise again to walk in the newness of life, rejoicing in the forgiveness of sins as if we were dancing in the midst of a Spring shower. Now we simply get to just live. Just live.
And the world can’t let us do that, because the world is dead. The world is darkness that refuses to know the light. But you, you can just live, because the Creator, the Author of Life who died for your sins, he lives and you have lost your life for his sake. He took it, that you might find it in him because outside of him, outside of the forgiveness of sins there is no life. So now he offers you his life in the bread and the wine through which we proclaim his death until he comes. It is the only living thing you will eat, because he is not dead but is alive. He is not dead but lives. And now, so do you.
You don’t have to chase glory. You don’t have to chase earthly riches. You don’t have to justify your existence to the world, or God. You can simply enjoy the life you are given. Because when you live this life here, when you suffer the crosses that come your way in the sure hope that Jesus rose from the dead, when you enjoy the joys that are left in this world as gifts from a God who loves you? Well, then you live the life that God has given you. Unlike the world. You get to just live.