What is Your Cross?

Scriptures: Matthew 16:21-28

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Today I’d like to cut right to the chase. In today’s passage Jesus is teaching.

“Immediately after Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus turns his attention to the cross—his own cross and the one appointed for each person who follows him. Christology implies atonement. Matthew’s phrase ‘from that time on’ suggests that the cross starts to make sense only in connection with knowing Jesus as ‘Messiah, the Son of the living God.’”[1]

We know Jesus as Messiah. We know Jesus teaches for three years, is tried by Pilot, crucified on a cross by the authorities, is laid in a tomb sealed with a rock with a guard posted by it, and is resurrected bodily from the grave, released to life again, appearing and teaching for another 40 days (Acts 3:1) before ascending bodily into the heavens.

If understanding his cross only makes sense with an avowal “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” then what about us? We understand his Messiah-ship, if in a limited Gentile sort of way. We understand the cross, if in an academic, historical kind of way. But do we understand what it means to follow Jesus Christ? To live emulating his sacrificial life? To take up our cross, as he bids us do?

Jesus teaches: “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (v.25). One commentator wrote:

“Jesus is clearly not the professor or scribe who teaches about the church from a distance, but the good shepherd who lives with, leads, and feeds his sheep, heals their wounds, protects them from their enemies, sleeps in the same fold as them, and is willing to lay down his life for them. If we want to follow him, then we are also going to have to bleed, weep, sweat, and die.”[2]

I don’t know about you, but that makes me just a little bit uncomfortable. Haven’t most of us worked into a place in life where we have earned our rest? Haven’t most of us done the good deed now and again without seeking payment for it? What is our cross that we must take up? Isn’t that for … somewhat younger folks to do? Writing about the contemporary Christian condition, that same commentator said,

“Our concern is … our willingness to follow Jesus into the world and onto the cross. We do not control God or give Jesus the conditions to our discipleship; instead, we risk contamination and insecurity by releasing the need to protect our own lives and institutions.”[3]

Peter had a hard time with that, and I imagine we do, too. But we might want to revisit our reluctance in light of a bigger picture.

“Peter’s response to Jesus indicates that Peter has not adequately understood or accepted the way of Jesus. In fact, Peter has now placed himself in opposition to God…. He has moved quickly from a “rock” of faith and discipleship (v. 18) to a “rock” that causes others to stumble (“stumbling block,” v. 23; cf. Isa. 8:14). Even though Jesus highly praises Peter in verses 17–19, declaring him blessed and the recipient of divine revelation, Peter still exhibits the qualities of one who has much to learn about being a follower of Jesus.”[4]

To which I can only add, don’t we all. I’m with you, Peter. I don’t always understand the scriptures or how I am to interpret them for contemporary contexts, and I rely on the intellect and writings of many who have passed before me in the faith. What I need, and perhaps what all of us need just a little help with, is becoming like the “good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21,23 – lit. tr. good and trustworthy slave) we will read about in Matthew chapter 25. As for today’s passage, perhaps

“The disciple who ‘takes up the cross’ is one who is willing to surrender pride, ego, status, comfort, and even life for the sake of the kingdom of God.”[5]

Any one of those is a good beginning, leading ever onward toward a deeper relationship with Jesus – and that is something we all need.

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

Question for Reflection

How can your life include a faithful response to Jesus’ charge that his followers must “deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24)?

Household Prayer: Morning

God of love, today help us to live peaceably with all. Help us live in genuine love: to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to love you, O God, with our whole heart, mind, and strength. In Jesus’ loving name. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Holy God, because you have been with us this day, we have stood on holy ground. Thank you. We know that you will remain with us through this night. Thank you. We know that you will be with us again tomorrow. Thank you, in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

 

[1] Hambrick-Stowe, Charles. Feasting on the Word—Year A David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, General Editors. Copyright © 2010 Westminster John Knox Press; Louisville, Kentucky; All rights reserved. Used by permission. Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[2] Kim, Jin S. Feasting on the Word…

[3] ibid.

[4] Reddish, Mitchell. Feasting on the Word…

[5] Ibid.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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