Peter had just proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah, but not surprisingly he had the wrong idea of what that Messiah would be like and Jesus had to explain.
Instead of forming an army of his many followers to march against Rome and defeat the scribes and Pharisees who were persecuting him, Jesus was going to undergo great suffering and be rejected by the chief priests and scribes, be killed and after three days rise again
A Messiah who would suffer was something Peter could not accept. If Jesus had power over nature, then surely he could defeat Israel’s enemies.
Jesus had been speaking openly so Peter took Jesus aside to rebuke him and got a stern, almost cruel response from Jesus.
Jesus had power to crush Israel’s enemies but war wasn’t the divine way.
Jesus didn’t want to suffer pain and death anymore than any of us do but suffering love was the only way that Jesus could win the world back to God. It was the only way he could fully identify with us and obey the will of his heavenly Father.
Doing what he wanted to do instead of what God wanted was a temptation Jesus needed to avoid. He therefore said to Peter publicly, “Get behind me Satan.”
Peter, who wanted to save the life of his friend, must have been confused and hurt. The teaching Jesus then gave was designed to separate those who would follow Jesus to the end of their lives from those who were part of the crowd because they wanted something from him. I guess there were those following him for political reasons, who wanted to be on the right side when the new government came into being, those who needed healing, those who wanted the power Jesus had and those who wanted to get rich quick by following the one who multiplied food.
There are still those who follow Jesus for all those reasons and sometimes Jesus answers their prayers.
The most important thing Jesus did; however, was to die on the cross and rise again for us. This is the central teaching of this gospel and from this time forward Jesus’ face is set towards Jerusalem and was not focused on performing miracles in Galilee.
What had been good news now appears to be bad news for the disciples. They all knew that if Jesus was going up to Jerusalem to die, they would be at risk of dying with him.
Jesus made this perfectly clear in his next words, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
These people had seen the hideous crosses that surrounded Jerusalem with those nailed to them dying hideous, painful deaths. They had watched those about to be killed carry their crosses to the place of execution. The cross was feared, and Jesus appeared to be saying they had to prepare to die the same way he would if they followed him.
Instead of all the lovely things they wanted from life and from Jesus, they were to deny themselves and follow him.
They were called to do what God wanted them to do and not what they wanted. It is to the credit of the twelve disciples that they all actually followed Jesus to Jerusalem, only running away when things got bloody and they didn’t know how to help Jesus any longer.
“Those who want to save their life,” Jesus said “will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. <sup>36 </sup>For what will it profit a person to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” <sup></sup>
If we want to live life to the full, Jesus is saying, we need to risk and spend our lives in serving others and not save and hoard them. It is better to burn out than rust out. We cannot keep or protect our lives. Jim Elliott, a modern missionary said this before being martyred by the Auca Indians. “He is no fool he gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Our passage ends triumphantly. Jesus asserts himself as both God and man. Jesus will suffer but he will rise from the dead three days later and heaven and glory awaits him as it will for us if we are not ashamed and follow him. The Son of Man will come for each of us with his holy angels. The way of suffering love wins.
you see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves:
keep us both outwardly in our bodies,
and inwardly in our souls;
that we may be defended from all adversities
which may happen to the body,
and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen