If you were at The Meeting Place this past Sunday or had the opportunity to listen to the podcast, you would have heard John speaking about Jesus’ statement from Mark 8:34-35: “If anyone wants to be my disciple, that person must deny himself/herself and take up his/her cross and follow me.” What is striking about this statement is that some form of this statement appears another four times in Matthew through Luke (Matt 10:38 & 16:24-25; Luke 9:23-24 & 14:27). What is so important about this statement that three of the four Gospel writers feel the need to include it, some more than once?
What it speaks to is sacrifice, which is central to the message of Jesus’ life and the Gospel. These words fall from the lips of a serious and gritty Jesus who is fearless in challenging our apathy and self-centeredness. As Pastor John said, Jesus is an “equal opportunity offender.” Wherever he sees things that are out of alignment with God’s plan, he goes after them.
This is hardly the “gentle Jesus meek and mild.” Here is a Messiah who took his own mission to suffer and sacrifice himself very seriously and passes that along to us. He demands something of us, something many of us — even those who call themselves Christ followers (I point the finger entirely at myself here) — are not willing to give up. To follow is to walk in the footsteps of and imitate someone, and who seriously want to follow in the footsteps of someone who was executed by one of the most horrificially painful methods imagineable? That is a question worthy of asking. And then answering honestly. There is room to grow in this thing called following Jesus and bearing the cross, and Jesus knows we do it imperfectly. But what do we really want? Do we want to hold on to 10% of our life and perfect plan while surrending the rest, or are we willing to let it all go, trusting that the one after whom we walk has a bigger plan for us and our best interests in mind?