Matthew 16:21-27 NRSVue
21From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of 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, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me, for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
27“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.
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Some thoughts on this scripture
Peter has just been congratulated as the rock on which Jesus will build his church. He is comfortable in a theology of grace and glory. Suddenly that rock looks sandy and unsafe. Jesus calls him abruptly out of his comfort zone into the real world where suffering must be faced (/cross/ is used here as a proverbial term for suffering and agony, not referring specifically to Jesus' crucifixion).
Lord, I love to see you in beautiful churches, with music and warm light. Let me recognise you too in pain, loss and insecurity.
One of the ideas in the gospel is that we take up the cross of doing what is right and being willing to bear it. Like parents who try to explain, cajole, encourage and define what is right for their children, even when they are thought foolish. Jesus bore a cross to the end of his convictions and love.
Taking the cross is also accepting and living with pain, suffering of any sort, and the griefs of life we can do nothing about. Crosses may be inflicted on us by others. We know of people who have accepted a heavy burden in life and who ploughed tough furrows, through no fault of their own. They have been helped often by the example of the one who carried the cross to the end. Help often came to them also from family, friends and neighbours.
On the way to Calvary, Jesus was helped by one man, remembered forever, Simon from Africa. Help can come from expected or unexpected quarters, but help there must be if we are to bear our crosses in life. In prayer we might ask how we help those near us carry the burdens of their lives.