Take Up Your Cross

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’”

Matthew 16:21-23

For centuries, the people of Israel watched for a superhero to rebuild their kingdom beyond what the great King David had achieved in his glory days. When Jesus arrived on the scene, he knew the situation—the Roman occupation, the wavering faith, and every historic promise given to his kin. It wasn’t by coincidence, then, that Satan’s tempting in the desert as well as Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus’ predictions about the future both contained a real stumbling block: This young man could indeed become the superhero.

Enviable talents, respect by friends and enemies alike, prophecies and supernatural stories attached to his birth and family, paternal and maternal ancestry in the marveled kings of old—these gems elevated Jesus as the prime candidate for restoring the nation. He knew the sacred law. He possessed a gifted tongue. In time, his dynamism and ability to draw masses would prove his potential. All of this makes the content of Satan’s and Peter’s words a logical set-up for him to get it all wrong.

Too often, I read those words and hear them like my first invitation to join Amway. I was 22 and I said no. I imagine Jesus in a similar way, rebuking his tempters casually as though they were uninspired salesmen with irrelevant wares. This, of course, denies the humanity of the divine Christ. It denies that “he suffered when he was tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). Peter’s words, for example, would have mixed with Jesus’ compassion for the broken.

So Jesus spoke to Peter, I think, with quickness and desperation, like you do when you’re pleading for mercy: “Stop it, Peter. Help me! Don’t do this to me, friend.” It was not Peter he silenced but the very real temptation to do what I would have done—lay down that cross.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: When have you been afraid because you knew what was going to happen and couldn’t avoid it? What friend do you call when you’re about to make the wrong decision? Has God ever provided in a way you never saw coming?

PRAYER: Jesus, I don’t know exactly how it felt when Peter spoke to you that way. But you said something pretty mean to him. What were you feeling in that moment? Regardless, you did what was right, even as you knew how difficult the road ahead would be. Please share that kind of strength with me. Amen.