"The Way of the Cross"
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 stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.?????
24Then Jesus told his disciples, ???If any want to become my followers, 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. 28Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.?????
Sitting at the center of our scripture this morning is the Cross of Christ. Understanding Jesus??? sacrifice can make or break our spiritual life. We can safely say that Jesus has done something FOR us in going to the Cross and dying, but what we often do not consider is what Jesus is inviting us "to" THROUGH the Cross. The Cross is a pathway to Christ-like living ??? a way of being, a way of following after God; it is the core of true discipleship.
Like we heard last week, Jesus??? ministry was a teaching ministry, showing His disciples how God expects His children to live. In John, when Jesus washed the disciples feet, he was showing them how to serve others everyday; showing them how to humble themselves and take on the burdens of others and walk with them in the midst of their sin. Jesus didn???t exclude others, he got down in the ditch with them, walked with them, talked with them, and showed them the way. This is what Church is supposed to be about ??? showing the world what it means to live like Christ.??
Now, Peter in our text this morning is guilty of one very grievous thing, something that we as the Church must be careful about, too. Peter is guilty of thinking he knew better than Jesus. Just as he had received a revelation from God, as we learned last week, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, now here he is forbidding Jesus from doing the work that must be done. One minute he's got it, the next he's no where close. Without the work of the Cross, Peter is in danger of something that he doesn't yet fully understand. Peter NEEDS Jesus to be His Savior, because without the Cross he will remain in his sin. Peter doesn't yet understand Jesus' invitation to die to our old life and be resurrected through Jesus into a new, redeemed life.??
So many times, it is our own life, our own thoughts, our own way of thinking that gets in the way of our spiritual lives. We are what stands in the way of God getting through. Peter's desire that Jesus take a different path made sense to him, but it didn't make sense for the redemption of the world. He probably had many reasons why he didn???t want Jesus to die, but we can???t fool ourselves in thinking that Peter wasn???t looking out for himself as well. What was to happen to Peter if Jesus were to die? What about Peter???s reputation? The things he had confessed to others? His entire life would change if Jesus were gone. For Peter, the way of the Cross didn't make sense. For us today, it still doesn't seem to make sense. But let's look at it…??
The way of the Cross is simply living our lives God's way, not our way. When Jesus says to deny ourselves, He means that we must put God first, being sure that our trust is in Him and not in ourselves. If we are left to our own devices, to our own way of thinking, we will inevitably destroy our lives and often times the lives of others. But to accept Jesus' invitation to take up His Cross, His way, means to suffer with God for the redemption of the world. This is the ultimate sacrifice, to bear one another's burdens and to be in solidarity with the world, just as Jesus was. The way of the Cross means taking up Jesus' Cross of forgiveness, a desire to be a part of God's plan of redemption. This way of living is a sacrifice.??
But at the end of the day, that is what the Christian life boils down to ??? sacrifice. We give our lives for the lives of others. We exchange our comfort for the comfort of others. Just as Christ took upon Himself the burden of the world so we are called into this same way of life, bearing our own crosses for our families, for our community; allowing love to cover a multitude of sins through the taking up of the Cross, the way of Christ.??
If we follow Peter's way of thinking, a life that depends upon our own truth rather than the Truth of Christ, then life becomes centered upon us. We must see the world through the eyes of Jesus. Only through the eyes of the Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ, can we see the world the way God does. Call it walking in Jesus' shoes, if you will.??
And part of Peter's thinking was an attempt to protect himself. We work hard at our lives, building them up on different foundations and praying every day that they'll hold true. But the way of the Cross threatens our understanding of our self. In many ways we've allowed the world to define us, to set our course, to control our currents. Our perceptions come from the "mirror, mirror on the wall…", to borrow from Snow White. We ask the world who we are and even who God is and the world has an answer. But that answer is what is wrong in the world today.??
Our understanding of both ourselves and God must come from the One who gives understanding, who gives Truth. God determines our value, our worth, and this is proven in His giving of His most precious gift, the gift of His Son, Jesus. IN GOD'S EYES WE ARE WORTH THE SACRIFICE OF HIS SON! HE HAS GONE TO THE CROSS, ENTERED INTO SUFFERING, ALL FOR US! (for you…and you…and me).??
And so we must let the way of the Cross threaten our lives; we must let the call of God call to question the road we are on; we must accept the invitation to come and die so that we may truly live, indeed. This is the cost of discipleship: to take up the Cross of Christ and enter into a life where suffering is around every corner. Where life may be at times uncomfortable. Where we will do without; where we will put others before ourselves and understand that our life is not our own, but rather a gracious gift of God Almighty.??
There is not a doubt in my mind that my words to you today are threatening the ground you stand on. But do not be afraid. I am not telling you that you must sell all your possessions or move to the most remote portion of Africa. What I AM saying…is that you must deny yourselves and take up your Cross and follow Jesus in a life…that gives life.??
As a child, I remember a sign on Hwy 129N between Gainesville and Cleveland. The sign said God's gift to you is life. What you do with your life is your gift to God. When I attended Young Harris College years later, a plaque of that sign sat on the mantle in the religious life house on campus. That has always stuck with me because do you know what it reminds me? It reminds me that it's not about me; it's not about what I think, but it's about following after God, even if that means falling on hard times by the world's standards.??
Folks, I want for you the very thing I am chasing after for myself, that each of us would use this life to glorify God for His going the distance for us. That we would glorify God for taking upon HIS shoulders OUR guilt and saying through the worst pain of crucifixion, "I love you ??? this much and more."??
When all is said and done, it should not be about our way???it should be about God's way, the way of the Cross. May God give us the strength today to follow after Him. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.??
Written with Essay on iPhone