“It’s just my cross to bear.” Maybe you have uttered these words or maybe you have heard them spoken by a friend or family member. We all have moments in life where we feel like we are carrying a heavy burden. But that heavy burden isn’t necessarily “our cross.”
Sunday’s Gospel begins after a great moment of faith and proclamation. When Jesus asks his disciples, “who do you say that I am?” Peter responds, “You are the Messiah.” We don’t know exactly what Peter had in mind when he used that title for Jesus but Jesus tells about how he will suffer and die and after three days rise again. This doesn’t seem to fit the image that Peter had in mind. Peter and Jesus then have the well-known exchange. Peter pulls Jesus aside to rebuke him and instead Jesus puts the spotlight on all who were watching and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
When we use or hear that phrase, “It’s just my cross to bear,” are we setting our minds on divine things or on human things? Jesus isn’t speaking about suffering for suffering’s sake. He’s not telling the abused to stay with the abuser. Instead, he is talking about the real persecution that he and his disciples will face at the hands of those with religious and political power. He is talking about the fact that he will go to the cross and die. He wants all of his followers to know that the path ahead is not one of earthly glory. He wants them to know that the message they share will lead them down a path that leads to death.
People in the world today, especially in the United States, like to claim that they are suffering “religious persecution” just because what they believe isn’t a prominent belief. And, if you begin to feel this way, ask yourself these questions: “have I died to self?” Is my mind on human things or divine things? Does this make my life better or does it improve the lives of many? Am I looking for personal glory, am I pointing people to the cross of Christ, or am I being a stumbling block for others who are trying to follow?
We can’t stop Jesus from going to the cross. And, we can’t stop Jesus from rising after three days. The following from SundaysandSeasons.com puts this into perspective:
Week after week, God’s people prepare for worship with a confession. At the heart of confession is the acknowledgment that we have done exactly what Peter did in today’s gospel. We rebuke Jesus, in the hope that he will back off just a little, leave us exactly as we are, and let us live life on our own terms. Thanks be to God that the response we hear each week is not, “Get behind me Satan,” but rather, “You are a beloved, forgiven child of God.”