Taking Up Our Cross
We can never really understand what it means to believe in, confess, or follow Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” until we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. The cross is not usually a part of our program for happiness. It sure wasn’t a part of Peter’s program. The cross stands as a sign of contradiction to our programs for happiness.
God does not give us crosses to bear. The burdens, difficulties, losses, and frustrations we encounter every day are not our cross. They are just the circumstances of life. Taking up our cross is not the means by which we are made good, acceptable, or lovable in God’s eyes. They are not God’s punishment for our sins or his test of our faithfulness. The cross does not justify our sufferings in this world, it transforms them.
To deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ means that we are willing to let go of our self-created programs for happiness. It means we are willing to exchange our programs for happiness for abundant life, and to forego “the taste of death.” That is what Jesus is teaching Peter and us.
What are our programs for happiness? What will we do with them today? Tomorrow? The next? Do we want to really live or do we just want to try to be happy?