When we introduce ourselves to someone, we usually only give them our name. We do not share our likes or dislikes and are reluctant to give our address. We begin to share more about ourselves as the relationship grows.
The Apostles had been with Jesus for a few years. They had grown in their relationship with Him. Then came the time for a quiz. “Who do you say that I am?” St. Peter had the correct answer, “You are the Christ.” However, St. Peter was not ready for the pain. All he wanted was the adventure, to follow a dream, to change the world. But he did not want to embrace the cross. The Lord could have sugar coated the Gospel message for the Apostles. That’s how many tele-evangelist gain popularity— “If you are good, then God will bless you—which usually implies getting a lot of money—possessions—good health. If you do evil, then God will turn His face from you, and you will not partake of His bounty.” Folks continue to support television programs with the cotton candy haired ladies and the impeccably dressed preachers who say all the right things, but obviously do not embrace the cross. Not just those on TV, but in pulpits all over the world—are the false prophets who preach Christianity as a way to be successful. Jesus never spoke about success, only fidelity. Consider that especially during football season, everybody wants to win. We are the “bears, the bobcats, the lions”—nobody wants to be the lambs. Christians are supposed to be like Christ. He is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
He is the lamb of sacrifice. Jesus offered Himself—not an animal—as the sacrifice on the cross so that we would not have to keep offering sacrifices. People were afraid and continue to be afraid of God. Sacrifices were a way to keep God happy. By burning the best of the bulls, cattle, crops, folks showed how repentant they were of their sins. During a visit to the Temple Jesus kicked out the people who were selling and buying animals for sacrifice. He said, “Stop! My Father does not want this!” Naturally, Jesus made a lot of enemies that day. He changed years of tradition. People were not ready. The Apostles were not ready. We are not ready. Ingrained deep in the hard wiring of our mind is the thought that somehow, some way or at some time we will have to pay for our sins. There’s just no way that we can get something for nothing. Therefore, we are skeptical of “freebies”. Salvation is a freebie. Our salvation has been won by the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
There is nothing that we can do to earn God’s love. His love is free. Yet, we have a cross to carry. They come in all shapes and sizes. The cross is a reminder that this world is not our final destination. In heaven there will be no more suffering, no more sorrow, no more pain. Just think, if we sit on a wooden chair in a dirt floor house or a golden throne in a palace—sooner or later something will start to hurt. Whether we are five or 105 our bodies break down. From the moment we are born we start to die. Nobody wants to hear the blatant fact. St. Peter did not want to hear it—not for Jesus, not for himself or anyone that he loved. “God forbid”—that’s usually what we say when someone tells us that they have only a short time left to live in this world. We don’t want to hear it. The cross is not pretty. Having to accept our mortality is not always pleasant. Little wonder that we postpone writing a Last Will and Testament, purchasing a burial plot, choosing a coffin. Some families never discuss their wishes after death, then relatives feel helpless when the inevitable happens. The ultimate cross is the final “letting go” and saying like Christ, “Father into Your hands I commend my spirit.” If we practice every day when crosses come, then the final step will not be so difficult.
There is nothing to fear. Jesus already marked the way. He fell into the darkness and turned on the light. We have nothing to fear.