He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, ‘The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’ Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.’
The cat’s out of the bag. Having been identified as ‘The Messiah of God’ Jesus candidly explains to his Disciples for the first time what lies ahead for him – suffering, rejection and death, and following that, on the third day, resurrection.
Furthermore, Jesus tells them that if anyone wants to go after him, follow him, walk his way, they too must take up their cross daily, and live, not for themselves, but for his sake alone. This is the Way of the Cross, the way of discipleship, the calling of every Christian.
It seems to me that we can dress it up however we like. We can make worship inspiring (it should be), Bible study interesting (this too) and involvement with a church community a joy rather than a chore (of course), but at the heart of our faith, the crux of the matter, so to speak, is the call to sacrificial living, humility and walking a counter-cultural path.
Discipleship is demanding, the rewards are not always ours to see, and yet we are compelled, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to try and live the life of Jesus today, in our families, our churches and our communities.
How this looks to each of you will be different – no two people live out their faith in the same way, and we will all be aware of our human tendency to do all the things that Jesus tells us to guard against.
Thank God then that our invitation to see the Kingdom of God depends not on the quality of our discipleship, but on the grace of God, who, in Jesus, took up his cross and died and rose again to save us all.
Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever. Amen.
The Rev’d David Salsbury is a member of Horeb URC, Dyserth and serves as Programme Manager for Stepwise.