JER 20: 7-9 ROM 12:1-2 MT 16: 21-27
“Get behind me, Satan!” After Peter had confessed his faith that Jesus was then Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus, in today’s gospel, explained to the apostles what Messiah ship and discipleship really meant. Jesus realized that, although he had predicted his suffering and death three times, his disciples were still thinking in terms of a conquering Messiah, a warrior king, who would sweep the Romans from Palestine and lead Israel to power. That is why Peter could not tolerate the idea of a suffering messiah. It was then that Jesus rebuked him so sternly, “Get behind me, Satan,” in an attempt to nullify this temptation to shrink from the work for which He had come. It was the same kind of rebuke as those He had delivered to Satan in the wilderness.
The gospel of Christ is a coin with two sides: the cross and the crown. If we try to embrace one side, the glorious side, and reject the other, the suffering side, we falsify the gospel. The same Jesus who said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) also said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). Do we come to Jesus then to be freed from our burdens or do we come to Jesus to take on the cross? We come to Jesus to be freed from our meaningless and futile burdens and, in its place, take on the cross that leads to salvation and glory.
Today’s gospel challenges us to say no to the very attractive but one-sided worldly gospel of instant glory, a sugar-coated gospel that offers the false promise of “no cross, all crown.” Did you ever hear it on the television: “Only believe and everything will go well with you?” It did not all go well with Jesus; he still had to endure the cross. It did not all go well with Mary; a sword of sorrow still pierced her soul. It did not all go well with the countless men and women saints who have gone before us. Why then should it all go well with you and me? In the face of disappointment, bereavement, sickness, ingratitude and failure, our faith response should be, not to question “Why me?” but to recognize that these crosses and contradictions are the necessary condition for our future glory. The world is the place for the cross. The place for the crown is heaven.
There was a couple who went to shop in a beautiful antique store. Seeing an exceptional tea-cup, they asked “May we see that?” As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the tea-cup spoke, “I have not always been a tea-cup. There was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. My master took me and rolled me, pounded and patted me and I yelled out, “Don’t do that. Let me alone,” but he only smiled, and gently said; “Not yet!” Then, I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was spun around and around. ‘Stop it! I’m getting so dizzy! I’m going to be sick!’ But the master only nodded and said, quietly, ‘Not yet.’ He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me out of shape.
Then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. “Help! Get me out of here!” “When I thought I couldn’t bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! But, after I cooled he picked me up and he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. ‘Oh, please; Stop it!’ I cried. He only shook his head and said. ‘Not yet!’
Then suddenly he put me back into the oven. It was twice as hot and I thought I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I was convinced I would never make it. Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and wondered ‘What’s he going to do to me next?’ An hour later he handed me a mirror and said ‘Look at yourself, you’re beautiful.’
God knows what He is doing for each of us. He is the potter, and we are His clay. He will mold us and make us, and expose us to just enough pressures of just the right kinds to give us the opportunity to become the disciples he wants us to be.