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.’
Reflection These words are amongst the most challenging we find in our Bibles. Following his talk of suffering and death Jesus then ‘throws down the gauntlet’ to any who want to follow him with talk of denying themselves and taking up their cross. So, what exactly is Jesus challenging us to?
Maybe the first thing to notice are those action words – “take up their cross”. This is not about the problems, suffering and hurt which come unbidden into all our lives from time to time. This is about discipleship which is a choice each of us must make.
Neither is this about a big once-in-a-lifetime action, this is about something we are being called to do “daily”. This is about discipleship which is a whole way of life.
In verses 24 to 26 of today’s passage we learn something about that whole way of life. Written with a proverb-like quality containing a kind of truth born out of experience and observation which speaks into a variety of cultures. First, we learn the general truth that self-centredness is, in the end, counter productive severing us from the resources which give life. Second, we observe instances of greed and meaninglessness in lives lived in pursuance of wealth and power. Third is a reminder that the one of whom we have been ashamed today will be our judge tomorrow. The challenge is to discipleship, a life in which we are called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. The challenge is to acknowledge that in answering such a call we may face tough decisions. But the reward comes in the hope of peace and freedom as such action enables us to glimpse signs of the Kingdom around us.
Loving God, life can be tough, the world around us, seems to reward those who find wealth and power.
You call us to a life of discipleship, following in the footsteps of your Son. Life may still be tough but we pray that through our lives glimpses of your kingdom may be visible.
Val Morrison, Elder and Lay Preacher. Doncaster United Reformed Church