Letting people take up their own crosses is not really all that easy when you care about them. Take, for instance, Peter's dilemma in Matthew 16: 21-28:
21From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? 27“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
In the story, Peter, being a protective kind of guy, is hearing some bad stuff going down. Jesus means everything to him. It is his natural response to want to protect Jesus. Let's be real, our best attributes and our worst faults are so very enmeshed with each other. It's us as "good cop" and us as "bad cop". For a certain segment of us, "protectiveness" runs heavy. Peter (and I) tend to be a little bit that way. Sort of in the same neighborhood as mother cougars protecting their babies.
Peter's the kind of guy who the deepest part of him would defend Jesus to the death (despite him getting cold feet a little later--he more than makes up for those three denials by dying a martyr's death). It is just natural for him to bristle up and say, "Oh, no, Jesus, no way, this is not going to happen to you," and probably goes on and says, "Let one SOB touch a hair on your head and his ass is grass!" Now, in all fairness, Peter has no clue at this point there is a deeper meaning. He just knows something's going down that has the potential to take his teacher and friend away from him.
I had to laugh during Wallace's sermon today because he spoke to not listening to someone speaking the painful truth as being a form of betrayal. Now, with me being very closely aligned with Peter, what happens in the "mind of Kirkepiscatoid?" This thought flashes through, that goes, "Huh? Betrayal? Isn't that a little dramatic? He's just being misguidedly loyal!" In other words, I mentally stick up for my buddy Peter and mentally snarl at the vicar! This initial visceral response started showing up as my own resistance to listening, all the way through the sermon...and fighting to listen because the voices in my head are going, "Betrayal, my ass. Oh, horseshit. You shouldn't pick on my buddy Peter, he's a good guy!" Talk about distracting myself from the task at hand!
But let's look at the take home message here. The take home message is we all have knee-jerk reactions that are not always the best choice, and we need to sit still with them instead of immediately reacting and subsequently acting upon them. Our knee jerk reactions are not always rooted in the truth. Mostly they are rooted in our own loss and often in the fear of losing something dear and precious to us. They make us dead to the real problem and the real connection with others. I like to say, "Satan resides between my two ears" but the truth is whatever we consider "Satan"--evil--also resides within our interactions with each other.
Now, eventually Peter comes around, and he is loyal to Jesus till the end and beyond, despite his missteps. Yeah, he screws up in big ways now and then, but ultimately he goes to what's right and true and good.
Now let's switch gears and look at this story from Jesus' point of view. Only Jesus really knows what the score is here, and I'm not sure he didn't figure that part out until near the end. I think he gains an awareness from the beginning of each Gospel to the end. I think in this story, I am imagining Jesus feeling a little heavy about what he told the disciples anyway because he'd like to avoid it himself, but he knows he can't because he is catching on to who he is.
Now, Jesus knows Peter loves him. Maybe Peter's love is more out in the open than all of 'em. But I sort of imagine Jesus as "just not in the mood." On a good day, he could have handled Peter's misguided loyalty better. But he's so bummed himself, he just does not need this guy--even though he is a good friend and possibly his most out front disciple--in his face, threatening to beat the shit out of all the bad guys. So Jesus, being fully human, as well as fully divine, just basically lets it all degrade to what my grandmother used to call a "Screw you/go to hell" moment. In my family, this was a moment when tempers flared and the focus of the conversation shifted in a heart beat to being irked at each other, and it usually ended with the two parties yelling those two phrases at each other, storming off, and then later going, "What the hell were we mad at? Let's make up, ok?"
Well, and that is what I think happens when Peter crawls down Jesus' back. Jesus basically goes, "Aw, Peter, just STFU. You don't know what I know and I'm telling you this shit is going down and you need to shut up and listen to what I'm telling you."
Now, I like to believe, the part that is not in the Gospel but is in "The Gospel according to Kirkepiscatoid" is Jesus stepped back and thought, "Oh, hell. I shouldn't have snapped at him like that. But aw, dammit, he just sooooo gets in my personal space sometimes! Awwww....but there's somethin' about him I can't shake. I couldn't have a better friend. I need to remember that." Somewhere down the line, they made up. Jesus told Peter what was going down. Maybe one on one. He said to Peter, "Dude, I don't need you to fly off the handle in defense of me. I need you to be WITH me." And Peter said, "Jesus, you got it. I'm sorry I got pissed. It's just that I don't want you to die. I just don't want anything to happen to you, man!"
Now why do I say this is in "The Gospel according to Kirkepiscatoid?" Because look what happens in the next chapter...who all does he take to witness the Transfiguration? Peter, James, and John. He wouldn't have asked Peter along on this if he were still miffed at him.
That is the thing about people having to take up their own crosses. The more we love them, the more we don't want them to have to do it. Peter would have taken on Jesus' pain to spare Jesus. Parents would take on the pain of their children to get them to see the light to stop abusing drugs, stop behaving badly, stop any number of things. Sisters would take on the financial burdens of siblings to keep the sibling's house from the foreclosure auction. You get the drift.
But these are often crosses the person has to bear themselves. We cannot save them. We can only be with them as it happens, and that is ten times more painful b/c it feels like "we aren't doing anything for them." But to simply be with someone in their hour of need is a mitzvah beyond belief, and we need to honor that!