Summary: We all know pain is going to be a part of life. The main question is "why". If I understand God’s purpose for pain I can deal with it.
March 12, 2006 Second Sunday in the Season of Lent
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 8:31-38 (NRSVA)
As we approach Holy Week we will look at texts that bring the suffering of Jesus into startling focus. This morning we listened to Jesus describe his extreme suffering and death at the hands of the Romans. Peter can’t bear the thought of it, and creates even more spiritual suffering by trying to talk the Lord out of his mission to the cross.
Our text is about pain, picking up a cross and following God to the place where they spit on you, pin you spread-eagled to crossbeams, and leave you to bleed-out and die on the town garbage dump. And then they break your legs. It is not a “feel-good” text!
The issue of pain does not escape any of us. If you give most any of us half a chance, we will talk about “what ails us”. Pain is one of the lowest common denominators for human beings; we all know the experience of pain to one degree or another. We talk about it, manage it, control it, deaden it, use it for motivation, fear it, and some even love it!
Christina Ricci and Angelina Jolie are two movie stars who have admitted that they inflict pain on themselves for “therapy”. Christina Ricci was interviewed by a magazine and described in detail why she inflicts pain on herself:
In a Rolling Stone interview, Christina Ricci…talks about self-mutilation and pain: She stretches; her sleeves ride up; there are raised round scars on her forearms, burns on the back of one hand. She later explains where each mark came from: how she heated a lighter, held it against her hand, a stunt to impress some boys when she was angry about "not looking very good."
The forearm scratches come from soda tops and fingernails: "It’s like having a drink," Ricci says, "but it’s quicker. You know how your brain shuts down from pain? The pain would be so bad, it would force my body to slow down, and I wouldn’t be as anxious. It made me calm." 
The differences between Jesus and Christina Ricci are too obvious to dwell on the subject. However there is at least one marked distinction that ought to be made: the actress craves the pain so her brain will shut down and she won’t have to face her life – selfishness taken to extreme; Jesus endured the pain to embrace life and secure life for others – selflessness taken to the divine.
An actress trades one type of pain so she will not have to accept another. The Lord endures all the pain that is possible to destroy the effect it has on the human race.
Humans have long attempted to escape pain at any cost. Listen to a pain management expert, Dr. Dennis Turk, president of the Pain Society of America:
The quest to control pain dates back to prehistoric times. Ancient skulls display man-made holes that may indicate the earliest known surgery to relieve pain. The first written account of a pain treatment appeared over 6,000 years ago in the Ebers papyrus (2005) in which the goddess Isis prescribes opium to relieve the god Ra’s headache. 
Pain is a motivator. The following are actual responses from comment cards turned in at Bridger Wilderness Area where people go for the rugged survival experience:
• Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.
• Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the areas of these pests.