Jesus asked, in Mark 8:27-38, “But who do you say that I am”? Peter confesses every true disciple’s faith, “You are the Messiah” (v. 29). This one from God, the only one who has it right, tells of his suffering, rejection, and death. Those who follow must come to terms with their crosses, and other crosses shaped by the world’s sin. “Those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (v. 35). The cross that awaited him shaped Jesus’ life and mission. Anyone who wants to save one’s life must be willing to lose one’s own.

When Jesus talks about bearing our cross, we want to know, “How do you work this thing?” “What is the easiest way to carry our cross?” Jesus will help you, if are willing to accept his help in carrying your cross.

First, Peter started with the right idea. Peter always seemed to have the “hoof and mouth disease” open mouth put foot in. Someone said the only time Peter took his foot out of his mouth was to switch feet. He did it again; Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter in a flash answered Jesus, when he said, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus explains how that will translate into everyday life. Are we sometimes like Peter?

Peter reprimands Jesus. A suffering Messiah can’t be right: it didn’t fit any of Peter’s preconceptions about being a Messiah. Jesus in turn, reprimands Peter. How are we dealing with this question “Who do you say that I am?” Can we walk the walk and talk the talk?

The cross is central to our faith but, like Peter, we cringe at cross bearing. What does Jesus mean? People say, “I guess that’s a cross I have to bear,” generally with poor-pitiful-me tone of voice. Is that really cross bearing? No! Cross bearing doesn’t refer to meaningless or even involuntary suffering that has to be endured. Suffering terminal cancer or AIDS is a horrible misfortune, but it’s not bearing a cross. To offer your cancer or AIDS weakened self by reaching out to others and helping them, that’s taking up your cross.

Bearing our cross is a choice. It is a voluntary form of sacrificial obedience that identifies us completely with Christ. Bearing our cross is not making the best of a situation or circumstance. It is something we deliberately take up and bear. To experience life in Christ requires feeling the weight of his cross in our daily discipleship. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. When we say yes to the cross, we don’t have to bear the load alone. The burden of the cross is no burden at all, not when we’re yoked with Christ. Will you help others to carry their cross?

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J.B. Morris leads the St. Andrews United Methodist Church.