What did you let them do that for? That question could be asked by every kid who has ever gone to the doctor with mom and dad, only to come out with a band-aid covering a hole where the needle went in. Whether vaccines, medicine, or for drawing blood, it hurt. Man, I was scared of needles when I was a kid. Some might say I still am. And parents let it happen. Of course with loving intent.
What would you let them do that to you for? That was essentially what Peter was asking as he rebuked Jesus. After a roller coaster of emotions, good news and bad, Peter and the other disciples couldn’t understand what Jesus was saying. In the gospel, they got things right with their confession of who Jesus was. But as Jesus spoke about the future he described bad things happening to him. Suffering, and worse, suffering they would have to face too. It would hurt. It wouldn’t make sense. Jesus would let it happen. What could be the intent? Jesus shows them and us how he chisels us with loving intent.
It was like a test. What did the disciples think about Jesus? “But what about you? Who do you say I am? Peter answered, You are the Christ.” Simple and to the point. Calling Jesus the Christ aligned him with the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. It said they understood Jesus to be the promised one God would send into the world. The planned Savior. The Anointed One to carry out the plans and purposes of God.
Of course, for everything they understood there was still confusion about what the Messiah would do. Their thoughts were very earthly, matching up with what they saw Jesus doing. Great crowds following him. Miracles done. Achieving fame over huge areas. All the disciples needed was for Jesus to use his power and might to win an earthly victory over the oppressive Roman government. Set up a kingdom on earth and make them his inner circle. They dreamed of power, glory, fame, and fortune. An easy earthly life with no problems. No worries about pain or suffering because Jesus would use his divine power on their behalf.
Their disappointment was like thinking you’re going to Disney World and ending up in the dentist’s chair for a filling or in your desk and the teacher announces a pop quiz on material you didn’t study. This was what being the Christ would really mean. “Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected…and that he must be killed…Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” Peter didn’t understand the intent. What good could come from Jesus suffering and getting himself killed? If he died like every other person, the dream of Peter and the disciples getting rich, having power, and gaining glory would be gone. Jesus would be no different than any other regular person. Nothing special. A man who died. Definitely not the Savior. What Peter missed was the most important word. Must suffer many things. Must be rejected. Must be killed. God didn’t send Jesus to be a conquering king like Alexander the Great or the Pharaohs. His intent for Jesus was much different. Suffering at the hands of earthly leaders. Being defeated. Facing crucifixion.
Peter is easy to identify with. He’s like us, quick-acting at times, makes mistakes, misses key points. Yet I don’t know anyone here trying to stop Jesus from going to the cross. That’s already happened. That isn’t our problem. We probably fall to the other side. We emphasize the other big thing Peter missed. “That he must be killed, and after three days rise again.” Peter may not have heard the talk of resurrection, but we sure do. We associate with the victory of Jesus very easily. Then we press it. We want that full victory now. Suffering and pain have no place. How could they? They keep us from the feeling of victory. They keep us from what we want to believe is God’s intent for our lives: total victory, total goodness, all the time. So suffering and pain can’t be God’s intent. Not for us. We’re Christians. Our leader is Jesus.
In that way, we’re after Jesus the same as Peter. In our sinfulness, we don’t want Christ coming with God’s intent. We want a savior who brings good things. A buddy who supports our thoughts on victory and living an easy life. So if our marriage is rough, we don’t want condemnation that it might be our fault because that hurts us. No, we want only victory talk. That might mean losing the spouse and getting someone else. But that might be what it takes to be happy. And isn’t that God’s intent? We want to be able to overspend or gamble without fear of losing. Then because we don’t want to feel pain, we want God’s intent for us to blame it on someone else. We were just trying to have a good time. Personal failure causing suffering? No problem. Jesus must take all worldly hurts, pains, sorrows, and sufferings away. He must because God’s intention for our lives has to be one of good times and never bad. Or if some bad, really light bad things that don’t hurt.
When Peter stood in the way of Jesus carrying out God’s true loving intent, Jesus reacted strongly. “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Peter, you’re messed up on what God’s loving intent is for life. Suffering isn’t something to be avoided. God sent Jesus to face suffering and death with the loving intent that he accomplish them for you. God’s love united you to Christ on the cross. As Jesus suffered and died, so did you. You died with him. Him in your place. God’s love reached you and raised you up to be a child of God through Christ’s suffering. The loving intention was for Jesus to go through suffering, facing it in your place, and get to victory.
Jesus, the master, planned sacrifice and suffering willingly. What could followers of the master expect? “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” In love, Jesus would live his life perfect but suffer. He would die innocently on the cross in pain unimaginable. Then he expressed simply what the loving intent of it all was. Jesus faced his cross to win us victory, so we would carry our cross. No easy task. Denying ourselves is something we want no part in. It means the same as carrying a cross. A burden, pain, hurt, humiliation. Even death. Everything that happened to Jesus can happen to us. We’re supposed to intentionally take the path of pain and suffering? Where’s the loving intent in that?
There’s no friendly twist I can put on this to make it sound better. Our sinful nature doesn’t like hearing it. And it’s not optional for Christians. Denying ourselves will mean saying no to things the world has no problem saying yes to. The sinful nature will want to participate, and it will war against us strongly. Very real suffering enters our lives. Strangers press us to join them in the actions of the sinful world. Christian bakers get attacked and covered in the media so they face backlashes and pressures to give in. Just bake the cake and all the pain and attacks go away. School children get teased mercilessly in classrooms for speaking their faith. Get bad grades till they cave to pressure in assignments. Get laughed out of college classrooms or made to feel like outcasts. The sinful nature feels the pressure. Back off. Give in. The cross wouldn’t be there if we did.
Getting chiseled like Jesus was chiseled on the cross hurts. Only bad things seem to happen, only suffering. But there’s loving intent to what happened to Jesus. He suffered for you. Jesus wasn’t alone on that cross. Your sins hung there too. The pain he experienced was for you, doing it so you wouldn’t experience the pain of sin’s consequences for eternity. The grief he had in life was all so you would be spared grief in hell. The suffering, death, it led to resurrection glory. You were there in the resurrection of Christ. You were receiving life. You were gaining hope. No matter how bad the suffering you face in life is now or will be, one thing is for certain because you have been connected to Christ. You will finally have glory with Jesus. Your sufferings and your death will take you to the very same place Jesus’ sufferings and death took him. Paradise. Your fate won’t be any different than your master’s fate. There was loving intent to Christ’s suffering and death because it brought him to glory, and he will lead you to the same glory.
The loving intention of Jesus gives your life intention. A willingness to go that far. To deny yourself. To be willing to lose everything. And if that happens, you will have lost nothing. The chiseling done in your life is only minor. It may not feel that way today, but what you stand to gain is immense and eternal. You stand with Christ. He chisels you with loving intent.