Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
Yikes! Take up a cross? Deny myself? What is Jesus up to? What is he asking his disciples, us, to consider? And does it have to include pain?
My brothers and sisters, there is a reality to our faith that we like to ignore or, at least, overlook. The promise from our Savior is life, peace, joy, hope, and love. Did not you notice what was not promised? Nowhere does the good news promise an absence of challenge, obstacles, temptations, toil, pain or heartbreak. In fact, these latter things are promised, also.
We take up our crosses as a sign that we realize being a Christian is both arduous and joyous, difficult and comforting, demanding and rewarding. We take up our crosses, recognizing that our goal is to follow Christ and not our own plan (that’s the deny part) and that, as we do so, we accept that each step of the journey is still in his hands. Matthew 16:24 is not an easy text to read or take in. But what gives me peace is a text like John 16:33c, Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. I am so glad these letters are just as red as the ones that begin this meditation.
PRAYER: Jesus, I can only go forward knowing you are behind me, above me, below me, in front of me and around me. Remind me of your presence and your power as I lift my own piece of wood and move forward in your name. Amen.