Imagine a situation where a homeless man is begging on the streets of London. A well-dressed man in a stretch limo pulls up next to him and offers him a job as vice-president of his company. You might think that sounds like a fairy tale; but that is exactly what God has done for us. We don’t deserve it, but he asks us to be a part of his kingdom and work for it.
But, now, let’s think about what must be going through the mind of the homeless man. First, he will have to give up what is familiar to him. Obviously, it is a terrible life, but it is the only life he knows how to live. Secondly, he has a few possessions he carries around in bags, and the few clothes he owns are on his back. And one of the conditions the man in the limousine makes is that the man must leave everything and get in the car. Thirdly, the man will actually have to work and accept responsibility. Life on the street was bad, but at least no one expected anything from him. No one expected him to be any different. He’d become comfortable there. So he turns away from the man in the expensive suit, rejecting his offer.
Does the man in the story understand what he has given up? He would have had a home, a job, wealth, a high position and a purpose in life. But he passed it up to keep what he had. What a shame. This is why Jesus said, “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, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Mark 8: 34).
But put yourself in his place – what will you do? Think about all the old stuff that you will have to give up. Or, worse, think about all the new stuff you’ll have to take up! Think about all the effort you’ll have to put in to learn new things and new ways of working. I’m feeling miserable already, and my day job is to help people make just that effort in their working lives!
But what if you understood that you were in line to inherit the business? You were not just a partner, you were an heir. And the reason you were selected was that the man in the limousine, unknown to you, was really your father who had searched until he found you. He knew your potential. He understood what you were capable of. He wanted to call you more than vice-president; he wanted to call you his child.
Jesus understood that he was God’s son and that he had been given a great responsibility. It was a hard thing God asked of him before he could take up his crown: to “undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed...” but Jesus faced it squarely and spoke of it openly so that his disciples and friends would understand what he was about. But, of course, they didn’t understand, not even Peter who sometimes seemed so close to understanding and had so much faith in Jesus.
Peter was “setting his mind not on divine things but on human things.” He was thinking with human wisdom, not God’s holy wisdom. Peter sought to counsel his friend and protect him and the other disciples from the impending violence that Jesus suggested would follow soon. And Jesus had harsh words for Peter, he wouldn’t allow himself to be dissuaded from the course of action he knew to be right and knew to be part of God’s plan for saving his creation.