Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Cross

Jesus had several significant conversations with his disciples while they were traveling.

I spend a lot of time traveling with guys, so I can imagine the kinds of conversations that took place when Jesus and his merry men were on the move. Food was probably a popular topic. Sports and politics may have come into play. And then there were undoubtedly the frequent forays into the totally mundane, the base, and the downright disgusting. But every now and then they found their way to the sublime.

Here's how I imagine this particular conversation unfolding:

"Matthew, dude! Where did you get those pita chips?"

"I brought them from home! And no, you can't have any."

"James, stop breathing so hard, man, you sound like a camel."

"I do not. Camels sound like this:" {insert foul breathing noise}

"That's more like a llama. Or a goat in heat. By the way, did I tell you that my sister's pregnant?"

"Bart, how can you be so rude?"

"What? What did I do? Was I rude?"

"You just compared your sister to a goat in heat!"

"No I didn't. I did no such thing. I would never call my sister a goat. Although now that you mention it, she does have some curious facial hair."


A beat of silence.

"I say my sister will be the best mother ever."

"I say your sister has the rudest brother ever."

"I say that you guys are the worst friends ever."

And with a wry smile on his face, Jesus casually enters the conversation. "Who do people say that I am?"

The mood shifts a bit, as the disciples consider the latest gossip. It's a safe question, requiring no ownership, no self-disclosure, no commitment. They merely parrot the accepted theories of the day.

"John the Baptist"


"One of the prophets"

He lets their words ring in their ears, and while they are still pondering, he changes the game. Now he makes it personal. "But who do YOU say that I am?"


Do you hear it friend? He's asking you, too. Every time I read this passage I realize that this is a question that demands an answer. Jesus never allows the spiritual conversation to end at the theoretical level. He always makes it personal. Every person must answer THIS question. Who do you say that he is?

Peter dares to reply.

"You are the Christ, the son of the living God."

It was a bold answer. It was an honest answer. And it was the right answer. Jesus is, indeed, the Christ. The other disciples probably raised their eyebrows and nodded their approval--the silent version of "Way to go, man!" Peter was on top of the world. But he doesn't stay there for long.

The moment his disciples realized that he was the Christ, Jesus set out to explain all of the implications of that significant truth. Jesus lays everything out in simple terms; he doesn't use parables or hidden meanings.
 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly.
How does Peter respond to this revelation? He's mad.

He was delighted for Jesus to be the Messiah, as long as Jesus fit into Peter's Messiah Box. This rejection, death, and resurrection talk?  This makes Peter uncomfortable. This makes Peter angry. He's so incensed that he pulls Jesus aside and rebukes him. The Bible actually says that. It says that Peter rebuked Jesus.

I wish we knew his exact words. I would love to know what one says when attempting to take Jesus to task. And I can even be tempted to roll my eyes at Peter's audacity, imagining myself to be way beyond the point where I would ever dare to question the King of Kings and Lord or Lords.

Only the problem is, I'm just like Peter. I love to proclaim the greatness of Jesus when the miracles are flowing or the worship band is singing. I'm great at confessing my faith when the brothers and sisters are nodding along, shouting, "Amen!" But throw in some rejection, a measure of suffering, and an ending that sounds like insanity and, well, I hold up my hand and say, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. This isn't what I signed up for. You've gone too far."

It's all fun and games until someone brings up the cross.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it."

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