Thursday

10 March 2011

"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." (v. 23)

Background

Just before this passage, Peter has declared that he believes Jesus to be the Messiah, the anointed one (verse 20). The Jews expected the Messiah to come with power and majesty to liberate them. But Jesus explains that his liberation is spiritual, not physical, and his way to this is through suffering, death and resurrection, and that his followers must show the same kind of commitment.

Denying oneself is not just about abstaining from particular things. The use of "daily" indicates that it is a whole attitude to life. It requires a complete transformation in our approach to put God and others before our own needs, problems, hopes and fears. Discipleship isn't so much about being saved from the world but allowing ourselves to be spent in the world, and so fulfil God's purpose for our lives.

Following Jesus means taking on the mission he declared - to struggle for justice, minister to the broken-hearted, bring hope and support to the poor (see Luke 4:16-21). Such active loving is far from easy and can make us vulnerable. If you care for people, they may still reject you or take out their frustration and hopelessness on you. Challenging injustice and proclaiming freedom can mean confronting vested interests and that can be dangerous.

Many have paid a high price for being faithful followers of Jesus. It's not just the early Christians who faced persecution. Millions across the world were killed for their faith in the 20th century and oppression still continues in several countries. Even in this country individual Christians may suffer discrimination and young Christians may be bullied because of their faith.

Of course, we can avoid trouble if we just remain in our churches, keep our heads down and wait for Jesus to return to put the world right and to justify us. But such a timid faith has little future. It is when we take the risks of commitment, when we engage with our communities and help people to transform their lives and to achieve wholeness in the power of the Spirit that we embrace life whole-heartedly. It is when we die to self that we really become alive.

To Ponder

What does 'take up your cross' mean in your life?

Consider the words of the Covenant Prayer. How willing are you to make this a reality in your life?

When you share the gospel (good news of Jesus) with people, what is the balance in what you tell them between what they will gain and what they are expected to give?

Bible notes author: Philip Sudworth

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