Friday of Pentecost 14 – Matthew 16:21-28

21 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. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26For 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. 28Truly, 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.” Read the first verse of the passage above again. It says that Jesus must go to Jerusalem, suffer, die, and rise again. Peter does not understand it and I am not sure I do either. What compels him? He is God, after all. At Jesus’ arrest, Matthew quotes Jesus saying that he could summon 12 legions of angels to fight for him (Mt. 26:53). For the record, a legion at full strength has 6,000 soldiers. That is a lot of angels. He does not summon the angels; instead; he confounds Peter and us by willingly suffering and dying. Our bewilderment, he tells us, is the thinking of broken humanity and not the way of God and His kingdom. But what compels Jesus to that suffering, death, and resurrection? No one forces Jesus to do something except Jesus. This compulsion comes from his own heart. He will give his life to gain the whole world for his Father.  But now he tells us something more. This principle is not restricted to Jesus. He applies it to all of us. We too must take up that cross and follow him. Again, that “must” confronts us. But experience suggests that it is so. Taking up a cross has so many different expressions. I have known many who have resembled Christ as they gave up their lives, some in heroic acts of courage while others give their lives one day at a time caring for a child born with cerebral palsy. This one stands up for what is right and is crucified in the press for it. Another quits his job because he cannot in good conscience do what they ask of him. There is one thing which marks all of these: Love. It is his boundless love for you and the rest of humanity which drove Jesus to that cross, its suffering, shame, and death. Love even for the men who pounded the nails and those who cried for his blood. When Jesus calls you to take up a cross, it is not to some meaningless sacrifice simply for the sake of sacrifice. He calls you to a life and perhaps a death conformed to his love. If anyone would follow Jesus, let that one deny self, take up the cross, and follow in his love.

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