Last Sunday I taught from the text, Matthew chapter 16. This is one of the most interesting exchanges we have in Matthew’s Gospel. There is a section in this chapter that begins with Jesus asking his disciples who they think he is. They offer many different possibilities. But when Jesus gets pointed and asks, “Who do you say I am?” Peter jumps in and declares Jesus as the Messiah. The passage ends with Jesus confirming that Peter is correct and then goes on to explain that as the Messiah, He must suffer and He must be rejected. Upon which Peter rebukes Jesus and in turn Jesus rebukes Peter going so far as to call Peter Satan! Often times we get so caught up in the dialogue between Peter and Jesus that we can miss some of the ‘meat’ of what Jesus says. Precisely that Jesus says he must suffer and be rejected.
Suffering, while tragic, still carries with it a certain value, honor and dignity. But to be rejected takes away from suffering any dignity and honor that may have been there. Jesus as the Christ is rejected in the midst of his suffering. That is the summary expression for the Cross: Suffering and Rejection. But now we must go a little bit further. What does the Cross entail for those who follow after Christ?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer has a word or two on this subject. He writes ‘As Christ is Christ only as the suffering and rejected one, so the disciple is a disciple only as one who suffers and is rejected, as one crucified with Jesus.’ Those are hard words to hear especially in a time when the western church lulls us to sleep by persuading us that suffering and rejection is not the life of a Christian. Again, Bonhoeffer would disagree. ‘Discipleship, understood as being bound to the person of Jesus Christ, places the disciple under the law of Christ, that is, under the cross.’ Suffering and rejection are not void to the Christian they are part and parcel as to what it means to be a Christian.