One time when Jesus was off praying by himself, his disciples nearby, he asked them, "What are the crowds saying about me, about who I am?"
They said, "John the Baptizer. Others say Elijah. Still others say that one of the prophets from long ago has come back."
He then asked, "And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?"
Peter answered, "The Messiah of God." Jesus then warned them to keep it quiet. They were to tell no one what Peter had said.
He went on, "It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the religious leaders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and on the third day be raised up alive."
Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat—I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I'm leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn't, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God."
Oh Jesus, you’re always subverting my sense of self-righteousness, pride, and arrogance.
This passage is one of the first that I memorized in the Bible. I memorized the version in Mark 8:34-38. So, this is one of those that have shaped me and directed me as a means to more deeply understand my life and calling as a follower of Jesus. Reading it this morning in The Message, hits different, as is often the case with these most familiar passages.
Yesterday, I lead our congregation through 1 Peter 4:12-19 which was about suffering well, suffering purposefully, and suffering faithfully. This morning I read this, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat—I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how.”
So, this whole issue of suffering is fresh on my mind. I am grateful that currently we are not walking through a season of suffering (Libby might disagree as she recovers from have her wisdom extracted). On the whole, life is pretty darn good.
Yet, some day we will face suffering again. It is part of living life in this world. So, when it comes I want to be ready. I want to be prepared to handle what comes.
I think one of the most important things that I can do to prepare myself and those people that God has entrusted me with is to reconcile this one truth: Following Jesus does not protect any of us from suffering. Jesus, was acquainted with grief, sorrow, and suffering. Too many think that if we “Christian correctly” then we will simply be #Blessed. But, that’s not the way it is.
Following Jesus frees us to embrace the suffering. We can lean into it. There is no need to mute it or deafen it. To embrace suffering, I think, requires us to look through the suffering to the other side of it and see that there will be an end. The hard time will change us. The hard times that we walk through strip away so much of the stuff that is unnecessary.
Suffering is part of following Christ. It is a necessary thing.
When we walk through it, we will come out the other side. We will have changed. The false self will be stripped away and our more true, our more authentic, our more real self will continue to emerge.