We find the story of Peter’s confession and of the first prediction of the passion in all three synoptic gospels. So every year we hear this incident in the liturgy. We usually linger over the report of Mark, which is the original one, or over that of Matthew, where we find also the conferring of primacy to Peter. Luke, as he tells us in the prologue of his gospel, writes his narrative after the others. He is a good historian, who checks the material at his disposal; but, at the same time, he is also a good theologian, who emphasizes some aspects neglected by others. In this case, we find Luke very sober in his account; he does not even tell us where the event happens (the other evangelists say that it took place in Caesarea Philippi); but he places this episode immediately after the multiplication of the loaves. So we can understand why Jesus inquires about the opinion of the crowds on him; it is exactly the multiplication of the loaves that raises the issue of Jesus’ identity: is he the Messiah or not? Among the different opinions of people, Peter is the first to acknowledge Jesus as the “Christ of God.”
Luke adds nothing else to this essential report. But he highlights an important detail: Jesus’ inquiry took place while he “was praying in solitude.” We already pointed out that in Luke’s gospel we always encounter Jesus praying at the most important moments of his life. And this is one of them: it is a turning point; it could be considered as a “watershed.” Until now Jesus has carried out his public ministry, preaching and performing miracles. Now, for the first time, somebody has acknowledged him as the Messiah. The time has come to change strategy. Soon—we will see next Sunday—he will start his journey to Jerusalem. So there is need of preparing his disciples to what is awaiting them there. Jesus is really the Messiah; but what kind of Messiah? What are the disciples thinking about Jesus’ messiahship?
That is why, immediately after Peter’s confession, Jesus makes the first prediction of his passion: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Even in this case, Luke is very sober: he does not relate any reaction of the apostles to this announcement. If you remember, Peter refused to accept this prospect and was rebuked by Jesus. Here we find nothing at all; maybe Luke does not want to show Peter in a bad light. Besides, what is the use of highlighting the apostles’ shortcomings?
Instead, it is very important to stress the necessity for the disciples to follow Jesus on the way of the cross. Please notice a detail: “Then he said to all.” Jesus is not talking just to the apostles, but to all his disciples, including us. “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke draws these words from the other evangelists, but even in this case he adds a small detail, very important to understand what Jesus is asking of us. Jesus is telling us that, if we want to be his disciples, we have to take up our cross. Well, but what does it mean? Do we have to be ready to die for him, if necessary? Of course, but we cannot wait for martyrdom to become disciples of Jesus. We have to follow him day by day. That is why Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily. We show us to be Christian not only in great occasions, but in our daily life. We have to deny ourselves not only during persecutions, but everyday, when we would like to impose our will or we refuse to accept mishaps. Following Jesus means to give up our will and do God’s will.