Scripture: Mark 8:27 – 9:1
Key verses: (34-35) 34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
Reflection: These are hard words for the disciples of Jesus to hear. It hasn’t been easy to follow him, and now he is saying things might get even harder. Already at this point in Mark’s gospel there have been run-ins with religious authorities, angry crowds, and the arrest and beheading of John the Baptist. Now Jesus says that there must be denying of self, the taking up of crosses, and even loss of life for his sake. Things are getting real for the followers of Jesus.
It’s tricky for us to read and understand, here in our Christian-friendly, Westernized, and affluent neighborhoods (by any worldly comparison, anyone reading this is probably considered affluent.) Here in Myers Park it does not seem dangerous to our safety to follow Jesus. Our lives are not threatened because we profess Jesus — not like the early disciples, and not like for some Christians around the globe today.
So what do we do with words like these? Are they just historical notes of interest in our Bibles? Are we just to think about the family of faith where they might be persecuted across the world? Or is there a message for us here, too? What does it mean to deny ourselves, take up a cross, and follow Jesus, and possibly lose our life for his sake? Are we only talking about bodily harm, or is there another way we can follow him in this way?
Theologian N.T. Wright says: “Jesus is not leading us on a pleasant afternoon hike, but on a walk into danger and risk. Or did we suppose that the kingdom of God would mean merely a few minor adjustments in our ordinary lives?”
A faith that calls for only minor adjustments in schedule and priorities is probably not what Jesus had in mind. If we are following him, then the life we might have had is lost, and a new life is born as we journey along the way. What does that new life look like? How is it different than any other person’s life in our same social standing? What difference does following Jesus really make in how we live our lives?
Prayer: Lord, I want to follow you. Help me know what it means to deny myself, to take up my cross, and to follow you. Help me know what you expect of me. Take my life and let it be all for you. In the name of Christ, the Holy One, the Messiah, I pray. Amen.
Author: Julie Hester
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].