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Crosses Hurt

When Jesus first spoke of His cross during His days of exciting ministry, the disciples—most notably Peter—dismissed the lesson (Matthew 16:22).  

I understand his objection. The lesson of picking up crosses in the spiritual life is not easy or natural. Peter was the first of the disciples to have his heart penetrated by the Holy Spirit in order to recognize that the man his brother Andrew had introduced him to as the Messiah was more than a Messiah. He knew in his heart of faith that Jesus was the Son of God Himself and the Messiah. Knowledge like that is impossible for a human being on their own. Peter had experienced the presence of God in a way that allowed his soul to connect with this knowledge. That happened to me too when I was seven years old. It was just like that. I had heard the gospel many times over those years. But that day, it made sense to me. God had made it make sense. I accepted Jesus Christ as my only salvation from my sin. I accepted the too good to be true Good News.

Then, like Peter, I began to hear God’s call to my true purpose in the world. I wasn’t going to waste my life pursuing wealth, success or even an easy life. I wanted to follow God’s purpose for me. Just as soon as Peter understood who Jesus was, Jesus revealed Peter’s true vocation:

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:17-19). 

The message of salvation just keeps getting better and better.  Not only does God love you so much He has sent His Son to pay for your salvation as a free gift. But also, all you need to receive the gift is to have faith and believe that this is fact. Then God will show you the unique way that you were created to impact His world for His kingdom from the moment of your salvation moving forward. Peter must have been humbled and honored to be told that he was going to be put in charge of the church.  

All of this good news appeals to our human nature. I don’t know why people reject the gospel. However, I do understand how Peter reacted to Jesus’ next lesson. These two facts are true. We are loved, saved and given a purpose in this world by God, and it is also true that we will have a cross that hurts a lot to carry as we live out our purpose. Jesus was ready to explain His own cross to His disciples. He clearly explained that His cross meant going to a certain place which was Jerusalem, suffering and being mistreated by certain people who were the leaders of the church, and ultimately resulting in His death, burial and resurrection. Peter couldn’t grasp this thought. He took Jesus aside and rebuked Him for saying such a thing! Jesus was quick to expose the work of the devil behind a belief system that does not realize the fact that following God’s love and plan is about picking up a cross and carrying it for the love of God.  Satan tells us that the Christian life is about getting away with sin and living a happy life enjoying relationships, experiences and things provided by the world. Jesus tells us that becoming a true disciple is about believing that He is the Son of God, sent by love from God to pay for sins that we had no way of accounting for.  It is also very clearly defined as a painful process of self-denial which leads to finding our truest identity in God rather than relationships, experiences and wealth.  

After correcting Peter’s theology, Jesus clearly told the whole group that becoming a Christian will hurt and require self-denial: 

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done” (Matthew 16:24-27). 

Are you carrying your cross? Peter carried the cross of leading a new church and literally hanging upside down on a cross for all his efforts. I am carrying a cross of processing my own and others’ sorrow while seeing the true nature of God’s love. What is your cross? All true disciples have been given a cross to carry.


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