Jesus once called Peter, Satan — as in, “Get behind me, Satan.” I’ve come to think of Peter as a mother hen. He wants to protect Jesus. Keep him from any harm. I tell the people I love to be careful when they go out into icy weather. I have not yet resorted to hiding my wife’s keys when she plans to drive in the snow. That would be silly. Jesus is telling Peter that he is more than being silly. Peter’s urge to protect Jesus borders on being traitorous. He is, in this moment, Satan. For Jesus’ mission involves going to the cross. He plans on being harmed. Jesus plans on dying. That is why he reacts to Peter’s concern so dramatically.
Jesus goes on to say that each of us will go to the cross, in our own way. We must plan it into our lives. We must not let our urge to protect ourselves cause us to back away from our mission. We must not let the concerns of our loved ones keep us from doing what we are called to do. If a mother hen stands between us and doing God’s will, we call him or her Satan.
I think of Martin Luther King. As the fight for civil rights intensified, he knew it would cost him his life. He said, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will” (“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” Montgomery, April 3, 1963). I imagine his wife had a hard time listening to that speach. Jesus says that each of us will go on to the cross in our own way.
What does Jesus mean when he says, "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, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it”?
We each pick up our cross by doing that thing for which we made. We each have our mission. We should know our crosses well. They are unique and represent the intersection of our giftedness and the humanity’s pain. Our mind, soul, and strength, are bound to our cross. But sometimes, our cross is dangerous to us. Still, what do we do? We pick up our cross anyway.
I think of the students who are planning to walkout of their classes. I think of young people who are planning to protest against those politicians who are owned by the NRA. Surely their parents are concerned that they are doing something that may jepoardize their safety. And not just them, I think of all the people who have had to pick up some kind of cross to fight against an injustice. I think of those who go to care for people who are sick, even though it puts them at risk. I think of those who work in dangerous occupations. If it is our mission, then we pick up our cross.