Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. 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. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But 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.” 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. 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. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those 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.” (Mark 8:27-38, NRSV)
What is the one thing that gives you the greatest joy?
I’m sure we could think of many things that give us joy, but what is the one thing that seems to always make us feel like we have accomplished something, that we have a great joy deep down in our soul? Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
But what keeps us from that?
We can see in our reading for today that Peter seemed to get it. And he proclaimed it loud and proud, in Caesarea Philippi, the place where Pan was worshipped surrounded by pagan gods and goddesses, and statues, and all kinds of distractions.
It would be like being in the Mall of America and claiming Jesus was the Messiah. Or at Lambeau Field! In the midst of the things that can draw us away from God.
So what are the distractions in your life?
How can you focus your life on Christ and follow Him?
And not the God we want, like Peter wanted, but the actual God we get.
The God who meets us in our vulnerability and lifts us up to Him.
How can we direct all of our life to Him?
Give Him back everything He has given us, and live our life for the God that lifted us, not the God we want to keep in a box.
So push the distractions aside and live your life for God, in the midst of a world that tries to draw you from Him, stay focused. And declare your loyalty to the one who asks you to bear your cross.
And you will soon learn that bearing the cross is not a punishment, but a release to the life He has in store for you.