We do not like to see our loved ones suffer. People have been heard to say, “Wish it was I on that bed and not my spouse, my parent, my child. If I could trade places with the one who is hurting, I would.”
St. Peter did not exactly want to trade places with Jesus, but he did not want to see Jesus suffer. None of us purposefully want to hurt—goes against our nature. However, Jesus wanted to show us how to die. He saw the future. He told His disciples that they were going to Jerusalem—that He was going to suffer greatly at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the scribes. So obviously, the heads of the Jewish religion were going to give Jesus a rough time. Jesus had often criticized the hypocrisy of the religious leadership. The Lord made lots of enemies because He was not intimidated by public opinion. The disciples knew that Jesus was a radical and was not well accepted in rabbinical circles. However, the arguments had ended with parting of ways—each left to his own conclusions. Matters had gotten serious. Jesus associated with untouchables, notorious sinners and He broke laws because people were in need. So, tempers were at a boiling point. Jesus predicted that they were so angry at Him that the leadership was going to kill Him. Naturally, St. Peter became protective—(as if the safety of Jesus depended on him.) “God forbid that something like that should happen to you.” “I’ll defend you; I’ll protect you; I’ll die in your place.” Good intentions, bad idea. Jesus called St. Peter “Satan”. In this case, death was not the enemy—fear was the enemy. The desire to avoid death is diabolical. Wanting to escape pain is satanic.
In all the old Dracula movies the greatest weapon against evil was the cross. The priest or whoever was trying to fight evil pulled out the cross and the devil backed away. The cross is the instrument through which Jesus conquered sin and death. Through the cross faith in humanity was restored. Death came from a tree. Eternal life also came from a tree. Our disobedience was punished with banishment from Paradise. God’s original plan was that we weren’t going to die. We walked with God, talked with Him, and enjoyed all the fruits of the earth. However, our ancestors thought that they had a better idea. From the beginning, Satan has never liked God’s plan. He cannot understand why God loves people. Based on the sin of pride, Satan tempts us to take the easy way. “Lie, cheat, steal—but take the easy way.” Jesus came to do the will of the Father, even if God’s will meant death on a cross.
The greatest weakness facing our world is the denial of the cross. Not that God gets His jollies from seeing people suffer. Our small trials can be joined to the One Sacrifice of the Cross of Jesus Christ. We are His Body, which continues to suffer, especially in the poor. There are countless levels of suffering, some physical, emotional, spiritual—but they are all related. Pain reminds us that we are not here to stay. We just want to pull a plug, pop a pill, turn a switch and get instant relief. Indeed, medical technology has made great progress. Yet, especially during our present circumstances, we are reminded how fragile we are. Like St. Peter, we become protective when we do not understand. “This can’t be happening.” No one in their wildest imagination thought that the world would come to a complete stop—that stores would close—that we would have to stay home for months. Our life has changed drastically, and some folks keep saying, “This can’t be happening.” Denial is the first step in a death experience. Part of us has died. To the extent that we have died with Christ, we shall also rise with Him. Jesus led the way into the darkness of the tomb so that we would not be afraid. We know how the story ends. For people of faith, death is only the beginning—the marvelous adventure that initiates eternal life.
Time to put fears away and trust Jesus Christ. He is leading us, in spite of the pain, into true life with Him, forever.