Lectionary Passage: Mark 8: 31-34 (35-38):
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.” He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
We want to be safe. We want everything to turn out alright. We want some minimal guarantee of what is going to happen in our life. We want safe travels on this journey. But that was never part of the promise.
We’re just like Peter. Sure, Peter got that Jesus was the Messiah. He knew the words. He had been taught the meaning probably from his childhood. He knew that that was what they had been expecting all along—someone to be in control, someone to fix things, someone to make it all turn out like they wanted it to turn out. And now Jesus was telling them that the way they had thought it would all turn out was not to be, that instead this Messiah, this one who was supposed to make everything right, was to be rejected and would endure great suffering. “No, this can’t be,” yelled Peter. This cannot happen. We have things to accomplish. We are not done. This ministry is important. (To whom?) It cannot go away. You have to fix this. You have to fix this now!
Now, contrary to the way our version of the Scriptures interprets it, I don’t think Jesus was accusing Peter of being evil or Satan or anything like that. I doubt that Jesus would have employed our semi-modern notion of an anthropomorphic view of evil. More than likely, this was Jesus’ way of reprimanding Peter for getting hung up on the values of this world, getting hung up on our very human desire to save ourselves and the way we envision our lives to be, to fix things. But what God had in store was something more than playing it safe. I think that Peter, like us, intellectually knew that. We know that God is bigger and more incredible than anything that we can imagine. And yet, that’s hard to take. We still sort of want God to fix things. We still sort of want God to lead us to victory, to lead us to being the winning team. Face it, we sort of still want Super Jesus. And, of course, Peter loved Jesus. He didn’t even want to think about the possibility of Jesus suffering, of Jesus dying.
Safety can be a good thing. I would advocate that we all wear seat belts. I think having regulations for how children are to ride in vehicles is a prudent practice. (In fact, I’m not real impressed when I see an unrestrained dog in the back of a pick-up!) And I lock my doors at night. But our need to be safe can also paralyze us. It can prevent us from moving forward on this journey as we settle for taking cover from the darkness rather than journeying toward the light. And in our search for safety, for someone to save us, what do we do with a crucified Savior? What do we do with the cross? Well, let’s be honest, most of us clean it up, put it in the front of the sanctuary, and, sadly, go on with the security of our lives. So, what does it mean “take up your cross and follow”? I think it means that sometimes faith is hard; sometimes faith is risky; in fact, sometimes faith is downright dangerous.
In all probability, none of us will be physically crucified for our faith. But it doesn’t mean that we should clean it up and put it out for display either. Sometimes our journey will take us through waters that are a little too deep and torrential; sometimes we will find ourselves bogged down by mud; and sometimes faith takes us to the edge of a cliff where we are forced to precariously balance ourselves until we find the way down. The promise was not that it would be safe; the promise was that there was something more than we could ever imagine and that we would never journey alone. And along the way, we encounter a Savior that will save us from ourselves.
Grace and Peace on this Lenten Journey,