From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things…and be killed… Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but of man”.
Of all the temptations Christians face, the one we seldom talk about is the one we should be the most aware of – the temptation to avoid the Cross in our daily life, the temptation to avoid suffering through obedience to Christ, the temptation to spare ourselves.
Peter had just uttered the confession, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” and Jesus had responded, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah…” But now, when Jesus speaks of His suffering and death, Peter takes Him aside and rebukes Him. In a sense Peter goes from speaking God-inspired words to words rooted in the machinations of Satan; Peter goes from eating from the Tree of Life to eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Peter in the supernatural sees Jesus as the Son of God, Peter in the natural sees Jesus crucified as an issue of Good and Evil – that is, it makes sense that Jesus avoid suffering and crucifixion, to avoid suffering is a good thing, to suffer is an evil thing – it is logical, it just makes sense. Peter succumbs to temptation, the temptation to spare Jesus, to spare himself, to avoid the Cross.
Jesus makes it clear in verses 24 – 28 that if anyone desires to follow Him that he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Him; those who follow Jesus must reject the temptation to avoid suffering by affirmatively taking up the Cross and following in the footsteps of the suffering Messiah. Is this in our preaching and teaching today? Is it in popular preaching and teaching today? Is it a keynote among popular media teachers and preachers? For some the answer is “yes”, for many the answer is “no”. Can we think of a time when a best seller had as its keynote following Jesus in His suffering?
Do we know the temptation of avoiding the Cross? If not perhaps it is because our lives are so immersed in avoiding the Cross that Satan need not bother with us – after all, Satan need not tempt an adulterer to commit adultery, or a thief to steal – these things are a way of life. Is avoiding the Cross a way of life with us?
As we begin today let us take up our cross and follow the Christ of the Cross and embrace the Cross of Christ.