We like stories about Peter because he’s a flawed character. He gets himself into trouble on numerous occasions by saying rash things. We like Peter because in a lot of ways he is just like each and every one of us.
Today Peter recognises Jesus as the Son of God, but he completely fails to grasp the implications. He certainly doesn’t understand the necessity for Jesus to die on the cross and he tells him so. Jesus puts Peter straight. “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.”
Many would-be-disciples misunderstand the concept of taking up crosses. We often hear people in general conversation sighing. “… Ah well… we all have our crosses to bear…..” There are difficulties in all of our lives that cannot be avoided. To try and avoid problems would be foolish. Life is just one long series of problems and challenges, and each problem overcome makes us a stronger character. However, this is not the same thing as picking up our crosses and following Christ. Living with unavoidable problems isn’t the same as choosing to tackle a problem that we could easily avoid. Jesus didn’t need to choose the road to Jerusalem and crucifixion, but he did. In the same way, Christians need to be pro-active about choosing their crosses. Do we choose to care for an elderly parent, or do we leave it to one of our siblings. Do we tackle racism in our street, or do we leave it to the neighbours. Do we fundraise for local charities or do we leave it to those we deem cleverer, more articulate or more energetic.
There are an estimated 2.1 billion Christians on our planet. How different the world would be if each and every one of us chose to pick up our crosses.