Lenten Reflection week 4 (March 23- March 30)
I am crucified with Christ
Week 4 March 22, 2020
Take Up Your Cross Daily
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Matthew 16: 24-26 (NIV)
Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. Mark 8:34 NLT
What did Jesus mean when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)?
Let’s begin with what Jesus didn’t mean. Many people interpret “cross” as some burden they must carry in their lives: a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness. With self-pitying pride, they say, “That’s my cross I have to carry.”
Such an interpretation is not what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” When Jesus carried His cross up Golgotha to be crucified, no one was thinking of the cross as symbolic of a burden to carry. To a person in the first-century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: death by the most painful and humiliating means human beings could develop. Two thousand years later, Christians view the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love. But in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but torturous death. Because the Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion, bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device while facing ridicule along the way to death. Therefore, “Take up your cross and follow Me” means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. This is called “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender. It means giving up your hopes, dreams, possessions, even your very life if need be for the cause of Christ. To deny yourself means to forget your own self-interest. It doesn't mean to abandon worldly comforts like a monk or to strictly control one's actions via spiritual disciplines, but to refuse rights and privileges that get in the way of God's kingdom. What, specifically, we will have to deny depends on our situation. It could be comfort, worldly responsibilities, or even the connection to our family or past (Luke 9:57–62).
If you wonder if you are ready to take up your cross, consider these questions: • Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends? • Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family? • Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation? • Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job? • Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life? In some places of the world, these consequences are reality. But notice the questions are phrased, “Are you willing?” Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen to you, but are you willing to take up your cross? If there comes a point in your life where you are faced with a choice—Jesus or the comforts of this life—which will you choose? Commitment to Christ means taking up your cross daily, which isn’t always easy. But, the reward is worth the price. Jesus followed His call of death to self (“Take up your cross and follow Me”) with the gift of life in Christ: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25-26).
This week’s focus reminds us that the cross is not only the instrument on which Christ died for all humanity, but also a way of life – the daily offering up of one’s self to the will of God.
How does our church’s preaching, teaching, and fellowship encourage us to offer up our lives to the will of God each day?______________________________________________
How do we know what the will of God is in various situations?_________________________________________
As we participate in various ministries of the church like council, committees, ushers, altar guild, choir, etc., how would our decisions and choices be different if we together sought to carry out the will of God (take up our cross and follow Jesus), and not carry out our own desires?
How can we together, seek God’s will as we plan and carry out our various ministries?__________________________
What changes can you imagine in our congregation if all of us daily took up our cross to follow Jesus?_______________
How would it affect: Our fellowship? Our service? Our worship? Our prayers? Our giving? Our love of God’s Word?____________________________________________
How can we better encourage each other to daily take up our cross?_________________________________________
Reflections on reading the Gospel of Mark or Romans:
Almighty God, your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, was lifted high upon the cross so that he might draw the whole world to himself. Grant that we who glory in his death for our salvation may also glory in his call to take up our cross and follow him; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.