Sept. 23, 2021 – Matthew 16:24-26
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
Why would anyone want to follow Jesus if it leads to a cross? Crosses have nails! I want Jesus to make life better for me! I like it when things go my way and do whatever I can to avoid pain, problems, and the disapproval of other people. At first glance, it seems like Jesus needs a public relations or marketing consultant!
But if we take an honest look at how we live, most of us must admit that we work very hard so life can be more relaxing. We stress out trying to get to a place of peace. We do good deeds for others because we care, but we also are hoping we can start to feel good about ourselves, or at least a little better. We buy, achieve, and people-please hoping to get the recognition and respect our souls crave. As we hang on to what we hope gives us life, we start to lose it.
When we let go of everything that is supposed to fill us up and follow the only one who can, we will have a “cross to bear,” as they say. And but the story doesn’t end for us with our cross! When we follow Jesus, we are given a new identity, we are forgiven all our sins, we have a direction and purpose for our life, and it is all connected to something bigger, something that lasts.
Whether or not you follow Jesus, you will have a cross to bear in our world filled with sin, death, and evil. You will have hard times no matter what, but when you follow Jesus, his cross transforms your “cross to bear” into perhaps the greatest “meaning-making” part of your life.
What is more, the cross was not Jesus’ final destination. We follow the one who went to the cross, but we also follow the one who rose from the grave. So, if we have to take up our cross and follow him, we will also follow him out of the grave. What else in our world can we cling to that would get us through that?
Questions for reflection:
- What is something in your life you tend to hang onto for security and fulfillment that simply can’t fulfill your soul? How can you redirect those needs toward Jesus?
- What’s the “cross” for you to embrace rather than avoid. Even though God does not cause his kids to suffer, how might God be leveraging the cross for good in your life and the lives of others?