31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For 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. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words* in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’
This is the first of three times over the coming chapters that Jesus will warn his disciples of what is going to happen. He will be persecuted, rejected, and killed – and after three days he will rise. Peter is appalled! He has just said Jesus is the Messiah – that is not what happens to Messiah! He draws Jesus aside, saying something like, “Really, Jesus, I know you’re the leader and all, but you’ve got this wrong. Messiah doesn’t die on a cross – Messiah leads the people to a glorious new kingdom, where Israel rules! You really shouldn’t talk like this.” Peter, who a few sentences earlier had gotten it right – answering that Jesus is the Messiah – now gets it all wrong. He thinks he knows better than Jesus! And he “rebukes” Jesus! And Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus is being tempted. It would be much easier for Jesus to be the kind of Messiah Peter and all of Israel expect. That was one of Satan’s temptations on the mountain. But that was not the reason Jesus came. What Peter suggests is a political kingdom, an earthly thing; But Jesus came to establish God’s kingdom, here on earth.
And he goes on to say – to the crowd as well as the disciples, “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 do not become disciples by aggrandizing ourselves, by thinking that we are going to save the world, by being first. We become disciples by denying ourselves – as Paul said, “I am the least of all God’s servants;” – by thinking of others – by being servants of all. We must all take up our own cross to follow him – not the cross of our choosing, not the cross that makes us feel like a martyr, not the cross that is dramatic; we must take up whatever cross life gives us, and carry it in such a way that Jesus (not us) is glorified! We must lay down our lives for Jesus sake – give it all to him – in order to gain life. It is a paradox – but it is truth.