“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
Mark 8:34-37 (NIV)
Lets set the scene. Jesus has been moving around the area and saying incredible things, he has drawn a massive crowd and they are in awe of him. In addition to this Jesus is directly speaking away illness and sickness in people’s lives! Imagine it, you go to see Jesus speak and your uncle Bert goes forward, he has not been able to hear since birth and within in a moment he can hear your voice for the first time and he’s leaping around like a firework thanking Jesus.
Or you go to a gathering where Jesus is and it’s a long hot day, the kids are fighting because they’re hungry and you forgot to bring any lunch. Suddenly you can see Jesus collecting the lunch of a lad up the front and then within a few minutes, baskets of bread and fish are going around and feeding everyone. Maybe even your kids are filling their pockets for the journey home, mine would!
Or imagine the guy who nobody can go near, violently demonised and shunned from the community. This guy has an encounter with Jesus and suddenly he is dressed, focused and walking about as clear as day, restored back into community and family.
Is it any wonder Jesus had a crowd following him? He would have been hounded at every town and village, there was no shortage of people needing this sort of help.
But what amazes me, is that Jesus could have maintained a wonderful life and ministry touring the big cities are working the show stopping miracles. He could have gone everywhere with this stuff and built a real name for himself, but with the crowd following behind he stops and says this:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
This bothers me, why would he do this? People began to turn away, people stopped in their tracks, men, women and children just walked away from Jesus. This was difficult teaching, this wasn’t comfortable anymore, ‘keep doing the healing miracle Jesus, we like that stuff!’
Jesus hits this lot with something so profound that I am not sure we really discover it until we discover the shape of our own cross, often through life’s adversities.
When everything is wonderful the idea of thinking about what our own ‘crosses’ are and how we carry them, is tucked away and hidden in the ‘not required’ drawer. Our Christian faith is nice, sweet, tidy, ordered and well groomed. Trouble is, its not until we come unstuck in life, hit a wave of chaos that threatens to drown us or are attacked and beaten up by life that we start to gain some deeper clarity on this.
Denying ourselves, in my opinion, is so tough to do with authenticity. What about my rights? What about my feelings, my dreams, my money or my time? What about me! Why should I forgive when that person hurt me? Why should I seek reconciliation when it wasn’t me that caused the division? This wasn’t fair, why should I trust again?
For each of us our cross will be different, wrapped in a set of ‘things’ that we can identify in our lives, but there is, in my opinion, a unifying element to all the crosses. They all have resurrection DNA coded into their very fabric. They all have the victory of Christ nailed onto them.
We are not doing this cross carrying, trusting and hoping alone, we are not stumbling and struggling whilst God sits light years away watching it all pan out for his amusement. We are accompanied by the Holy Spirit who reminds us minute by minute, hour by hour that Jesus has defeated this world and has given us victory.
My prayer is this; why not make it yours ?
Jesus, this is all about you and all about your strength, presence and life in me, I might not always feel your presence and the valleys can be deep and dark but lead me on, minute by minute, hour by hour.
Image Credit: Matej Rieciciar