It is human to measure the worth of one’s life by the successes one has. Why should Christ, humanly speaking have had a different outlook on life! It is interesting to see and follow the beginning of his public career, how people were hanging on his lips, when they realize that he was preaching “with authority and not like their scribes.” He was working miracles and wonders so that the whole of Jerusalem knew him. It was only a matter of time and it was imminent that the people will follow him in ousting the romans. He could really win over the authorities to their side.
That was what the disciples thought. They were euphoric at his power and then, alas, he began to speak of his impending death. What a let down! He was willing to die according to his Father’s plan. Peter would have nothing of it. He will prevent Jesus from going to Jerusalem. Jesus did not mince his words and he called Peter Satan. He says you are thinking like men concerning the meaning and end of life and not God’s way.
Peter and the disciples represent humanity in their stubborn and arrogant belief that they could change society and the world. All it takes is ingenuity, planning and the people’s support. There is no change without God. Nations have pinned their hopes on many of their leaders and it brought disasters and horror which humankind have never witnessed before. We pinned our hopes in kings, queens, presidents and and all forms of leader ship and they disappointed us badly. The disciples were thinking of this earthly life and how to live it well through a well established kingdom of a Messiah.
Jesus is not about the kingdom here on earth. He has one mission and that is to save humankind, to conquer death which puts an end to all the high aspirations of human beings as a group and as individuals. What would it profit anyone to gain all the world or even to be successful, let’s say, in changing communities for the better if all these will be annihilated by death. To be sure government and organized society is a reality and a must exist in this world but it is also imperative that is run by the values of the gospel, or at least sympathetic to the dignity of human beings: to promote the well being of whole humanity. Or what can one give in exchange for his life? Life is all and we humans cannot give it to others for we are by nature contingent and limited and we cannot even justify our own existence.
The disciple must take up his cross and follow Christ. This is not a defeatist attitude. It is a realistic view of human life, that all have their crosses in life: disappointments, loses in life, sickness and tragedies. The cross is not something imposed upon us. It is within human existence. That is why God the Son when he became flesh could not exempt himself from this human cross else he would not be truly human. In other words Jesus is teaching us how to bear our cross bravely, it was not His Cross. He wants us to have life in its fullness. He is showing us how to carry the human cross, i.e. in obedience to the Father who will lead everything to a blissful end. We human beings introduced the cross in this world and in our lives, not God.
Carry your cross Jesus said as I carry mine. And his cross is carrying the whole of humankind towards the Father. For a Christian to carry the cross is the epitome of success because the cross, which is he sign of death has becomes the sign of life. Only people who carry the cross can change the world. The world is so predictable. It always wants to use power and dominance of others to create a society their leaders want. They use force, violence, death, threats and exploitation and oppression. Look at all the nations at war. So predictable! All use the same program. And ironically they want to preserve the lives of their peoples and nation and yet they want hesitate to annihilate one another so as to established their own preconceived ideas of what the world and societies should be. There is no mention of cross and yet ironically they bring it upon themselves and their cross leads to death.
If you notice when Jesus speaks about the cross you could not detect any trace of defeatist attitude or resignation to one’s fate for nothing could be done about it. He speaks of a confidence that the cross can be conquered, death the final enemy has no chance if one follows the will of His Father. Let us be realistic, we have crosses but we also have blessings. What Jesus is warning us about is that we cannot deny crosses in life. It is part of human life. Problems are meant to be solved but crosses are meant to be carried. We cannot solve the cross, for it is not a problem. It is meant to be carried.