Death by firing squad is a popular way of dispensing capital punishment to criminals in some countries in the world. In Indonesia, the penalty for a drug crime is by firing squad. According to the Emirate law capital punishment is only by firing squad. In the United States, death by firing squad is rare. However, Ronnie Lee Gardner, a dangerous criminal, and murderer in the mid-80s was executed by firing squad in Utah in June 2010, making it the last official death punishment with bullets within the Union.
Just as firing squad represents a way to punish criminals in our day and age, at the time of our Lord Jesus Christ crucifixion was the route for public criminals within the purview of the Roman law. We, at this point, understand why Peter, in the Gospel of today (Mark 8:27-35) could take our Lord Jesus Christ aside to rebuke him for saying that he would be arrested and killed after the manner of a criminal.
Earlier in the Gospel narrative, our Lord Jesus made an identity analysis about himself by asking his disciples who people say he is. From the answers, we discover that the people see him as a prophet by linking him with John the Baptist, Elijah and other prophets. Furthermore, he tries to know their view and Peter says, “You are the Christ.” A perfect answer indeed! The name Christ is from the Greek Christos which means anointed one, and it is the title for the Messiah whom the people have been anticipating (John 1:41).
With the revelatory identification by Simon Peter, Jesus begins to teach his disciples about the suffering he would undergo and even about his death and resurrection. Peter’s “intervention” to stop our Lord from going the way of suffering shows the limitation of his knowledge about the Christ he proclaimed earlier. He wanted Jesus to be the Christ but not to go the path of the Christ which involves suffering and death. He wanted him to be the Christ but without the cross.
Get Behind Me Satan!
The Lord’s answer to Peter, “get behind me Satan” shows that his idea was not in consonance with the plan of God. It is vital for us to note in the dialogue that Peter spoke but the reply went to Satan. It is only Satan that would encourage you to take a position and do nothing, to wish for heaven and not work for it. Do we not often accept Satan’s suggestions when we despise those little crosses that would help us to cross over to a better life?
Satan’s suggestive intervention did not stop with Peter. He is still sticking around telling us to get the crown without the cross, to answer Christians with the living the Christian life. We could also notice in the narrative that Satan comes to Jesus through one who is close to him, namely, Peter. Satan could come to us through people and events that are very close to us. Notice also that Satan (speaking through Peter) did not comment on the glory of the resurrection but only on the suffering and death. Like our Lord Jesus Christ, we need to stand on our feet and tell Satan to go behind us because that is where he belongs
Often, we think that being a Christian relieves us from all forms of sufferings. We see the cross only as a symbol of suffering. We need to take a more reflective look at the cross. It is a plus sign that would potentially add value to our lives. The cross is also a ladder that could help us to climb over a lot of hurdles in our lives. A cross-less Christ is a caricature just like Christianity without the cross is a cartoon.
The cross is thus the symbol of our Christian life. Beyond wearing it around our necks and getting it as a tattoo, there is a need for us to make the cross real in our lives. In the First Reading (Isaiah 50:4c-9), the prophet assures us of God’s divine help when we go through the torturous moments and confrontations of life. Do not become hopeless when you go through the difficulties of life they often represent the practical demonstration of your faith as St. James tells us in the Second Reading (James 2:14-18).
As we go through life, may we like our Lord Jesus Christ accept our crosses and carry them. Your cross could be your family, your vocation, your spouse, your children, relations, friends and colleagues even yourself. Remember that without the cross, the crown would be an illusion just like the suffering of Christ brought about our salvation. God bless you.