Editors Note: This is the second of a six-part series on the “The Glory and Power of the Cross.” The articles also include discussion questions to allow them to be used in Lenten disscusssion groups..
Don’t Stumble! When we choose to act in a way that is opposed to Jesus, the cross becomes a stumbling block to us. When Peter heard Jesus talking about the cross, he took Jesus aside and rebuked him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” But Jesus turned around and rebuked him, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Matthew 16:22-23).
Did Peter stumble here because he loved Jesus? Or was it because things were going so well he didn’t want to see it come to an end? We don’t know for sure, but we do know this: We have to embrace the cross. We have to wholeheartedly accept Jesus and not try to tell him what we will do and what we will not do.
When we look at the cross of Christ, we are actually looking at two realities: the facts of the cross and the application of the cross. The fact is this: Jesus died once, for all of our sins. The application is this: Even though Jesus has died for all of our sins, we experience his grace and mercy only when we take hold of, or apply, the power of the cross. We will not experience this freedom from sin very deeply if we knowingly allow sin to rule our lives.
We need to be careful here. It is not a matter of whether we will commit sins. Of course we will sin. We are weak and we live in a fallen world. God is rich in mercy, and he does forgive us and heal our weaknesses. The real issue is this: We make the cross a stumbling block when we think and act in ways that encourage sin—when we know what we are doing and yet take no steps to counteract the sin. It is one thing to fall prey to a sin and repent, knowing we have done wrong. It is another thing altogether to let a pattern of sin have free rein in our lives—especially when we know that we are offending the Lord.
We live in a world that condones lying, manipulation, and deception; a world that approves of abortion, same-sex marriage, and living together out of wedlock. According to the philosophy of this world, there is nothing wrong with extreme self-centeredness as long as it doesn’t hurt or impose on anyone else. Patterns of behavior like these run contrary to the message of the cross, which is a message of laying down our lives to serve God and his people. When we condone sinful behavior—trying to keep the “flesh-life” active in us—we will stumble in our desire to embrace the cross.
Jesus told Peter and the others: “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Matthew 16:25-26). What does it profit us to hold positions and views that are opposed to Jesus, that separate us from him, that make us less loving toward others, and that drag our spirituality down?
The Victory Is Ours. Jesus came into this world so that he could lay down his life for us on the cross. His victory is our victory. His resurrection is our resurrection. His triumph over sin and death is our triumph. How can we ever honor him for what he has done? By meditating on the cross every day. By turning to him in prayer every day this Lent. Let’s tell Jesus that we are sinners and that we are grateful for the price he paid on the cross. Let’s look to the power of his cross to set us free from those nagging sin patterns that still keep us bound.
There is power in Jesus’ cross—a power available to everyone who asks. So let’s glory in the cross of Christ so that we can live in the victory that Jesus won for us!
(Joe Difato is the publisher of The Word Among Us devotional magazine. Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/ ) for allowing us to use his articles from their 2009 Lenten Issue. Used with permission.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- Why do you think that when Peter first heard Jesus talking about the cross, it was a stumbling block to him? In what way can the cross be a stumbling block to you?
- The article calls on each of us to “embrace” the cross. What steps can you take as Catholic men to better embrace the crosses in your life?
- The article goes on to say that “Even though Jesus has died for all of our sins, we experience his grace and mercy only when we take hold of, or apply, the power of the cross.” Do you believe we can apply the power of the cross to putting to death sin patterns or sin areas in our lives that hold us in bondage? Why or why not?
- Two possible steps we can take during Lent are suggested in the article: meditating on the cross every day and turning to him in prayer every day. Try experimenting with these in the remaining days of Lent and, if you are in a men’s group, share any fruits at future meetings.
- The article ends with these words, “Let’s tell Jesus that we are sinners and that we are grateful for the price he paid on the cross. Let’s look to the power of his cross to set us free from those nagging sin patterns that still keep us bound. There is power in Jesus’ cross—a power available to everyone who asks. So let’s glory in the cross of Christ so that we can live in the victory that Jesus won for us!” At the end of your men’s group meeting, use these words as a starting point in praying for one another to truly experience the power of Jesus’ cross more deeply in your lives.