Depending on the situation, sometimes Peter ‘gets it’ and sometimes Peter is as clueless as the rest. But he never tires of being outspoken! Like when Jesus asks the disciples, “who do you say that I am” Peter the only one to hazard a guess! And when he answers “You are the son of God… the Messiah,” Jesus looks at Peter and says “You are blessed! You’re a rock! In fact, I’m building my church on this rock!”
Peter was willing to risk; to “get out of the boat,” to answer whenever Jesus called… without fear of having the wrong answer, the wrong interpretation, or the wrong theology. In the classroom of Christ, Peter was the antsy kid in the second row with his hand in the air saying “Ooo! Ooo! Pick me! Pick me!”
And although Peter (at times) may shoot from the hip; we can also see that he has the kind of radical trust in Jesus, and the kind of daring faith, that the church was built on. (Oh that we could have such faith!)
But Peter was also a big picture guy. And in today’s passage, Peter had noticed that as much as Jesus has been attracting crowds through his preaching and teaching, and especially his miracles, Jesus has also been attracting (and annoying) the Pharisees and Scribes. They had been getting more and more vocal in their opposition to Jesus; word had spread to the big guys in Jerusalem. [Linda Pepe, 2011]
Of course, Jesus isn’t letting up; he began to show the disciples that he was heading straight for Jerusalem. Notice it doesn’t say that Jesus was telling the disciples he was going to Jerusalem, it says that he was “showing them 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.” (vs.21)
He was showing them… Jesus was living out his message to an extent that it was visibly infuriating the religious leaders. And it wasn’t just that he was continuing to heal and preach and teach; but Jesus was challenging the system… the religious system, yes… but also the Roman government… the system that kept a few in power and the rest in oppression. [Living Liturgy, 2014]
It’s interesting to me that we haven’t changed much in our interpretation of that phrase… ‘Take up your cross and follow me,’ since then. For the most part, we equate the cross with suffering… and we have taken this verse and made it almost a cliché.
Authentic discipleship doesn’t require us to seek suffering. Being faithful to Jesus will bring enough as it is. This is so because living and witnessing to Gospel values challenges so many values society touts are the ones that will bring us happiness. Ultimately, though, we find that only living Gospel values brings us lasting happiness, even though we must die to self in the process. All who wish to be faithful to Jesus’ call to Gospel living must be prepared to suffer—and also be prepared to receive new Life. The Life Jesus offers is worth any price!