October 13, 2021
Scripture: Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Matthew 16:24-26 ESV
Observation: Here, Jesus expresses two imperatives of a worthy disciple: deny self (by cross-bearing) and follow him. They are mutually dependent commands. We will fail to renounce our egocentric selves if we do not follow him, and we will not succeed in following him if we refuse to surrender our agendas to our Lord. The second part of Christ’s teaching addresses the impact of faithfully following him: we will lose our lives but paradoxically find them. He then explains that pursuing and grasping the temporal pleasures that the world offers will come at the eternal expense of forfeiting our very souls.
Takeaway: But what does it mean to deny ourselves, to bear our cross? In Roman times, a criminal, if physically able, would carry his cross to his place of execution. It was not a starting point but a journey—and a painful one at that. So what did Jesus have in mind for us? We do not have the strength to carry our crosses apart from an intimate relationship with him. We cannot bear the pain and suffering of our own accord. We hear a similar theme throughout the Gospels and Paul’s writings: apart from Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:6), but in Christ, we will find the strength to do all that he commands (Philippians 4:13). And the reward? For whatever we may lose that our world offer, we will find so much more in Christ: our priceless and imperishable souls.
Prayer: Father God, please help us to draw near you and your Son and find the strength we need to press through this temporal journey of suffering powered by your joy that is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling