Reading: Matthew 16: 21-28
Verse 24: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Jesus was quite the radical in His day. He called a group of men to be His disciples not from within the elite of the pre-Rabbi schools but out of ordinary life. He did not spend all of His time in the temple but was out in the towns and villages eating and teaching the sinners and the lost. Jesus did not simply read the scriptures and proclaim the word, but He also rolled up His sleeves and served others as a mean to show them God’s love. He lived this way so that we would know what it looked like to live as a Christian.
In today’s passage we hear these words: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”. The first step is to deny self. Society teaches us to first look out for #1, but Jesus says to put self last. Jesus loved God with all He was and then next loved all of His neighbors more than He loved Himself. He first sought to serve God and neighbor and only then did He consider His own needs. In doing so, Jesus met people’s basic needs, sought equality for all, showed love and forgiveness and compassion, and lived a humble and simple life.
The next part involves taking up our cross. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice. When Jesus calls us to take up our cross, He is asking us to die to self, to be willing to live with less so that others may have some, and to be a servant to all.
And then He says, “Follow me”. Jesus calls us to do what He did, to follow His example. Get out there into the ordinary of life – get outside the walls of the temple and our homes and our comfort zones. Spend time with the lost – the sinners and the atheists and the non-believers. Eat with them, talk with them, share Jesus with them. Find ways to serve others, to meet people’s basic needs, to lift them up, and to bring them hope and justice. In all this, we follow the One who lived God’s love out loud. May we come and follow, showing the light and love of Christ to all for the glory of God.