Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34

Jesus is in the process of revealing himself to his followers. They are progressively coming to an understanding of who Jesus is and what he is going to do. And now he is going to make clear to his disciples and to the crowd what it means to follow him. Now that they have heard the truth they need to know what it requires of them. This is really important stuff! If you have ever wondered what it really means to be a Christian, a true follower of Jesus, this is it in Jesus’ own words!

Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself.” What does it mean to deny yourself? It does not mean that we are supposed to deny ourselves things that we like. Jesus is not talking about giving up something for Lent! He is not talking about denying ourselves desserts or red meat. We have to recognize that before we are born again everything is about us! Every interest we have is related to ourselves. Before we become followers of Christ we only pursue the things that please us! Now Jesus is saying that if anyone wants to become his follower then he will have to say no to that self. We must willingly and intentionally say goodbye to that old self. We must walk away from our old sinful paths and follow Jesus’ path. It means we have to give up any reliance on what we are and depend on God alone for our salvation. What else are we going to do? Will we try to reform ourselves? Will we try to be good? Will we try to do good deeds that might make God happy with us? We have to deny all of these things!

Jesus says that if anyone wants to be his follower he must take up his cross. This is the picture of the condemned man being forced to carry his cross to the place of his execution. Not a very pleasant picture! But Jesus is saying that if we want to follow him then we have to consider ourselves as dead. Our old lives are over. We no longer live to serve ourselves. We give up going after the things we want. Taking up the cross means accepting the mockery and hatred of this world because we are following the way of Christ. It means clinging to the ways of love and weakness rather than the ways of selfishness and power. It means sacrificing our own goals and comforts for the sake of advancing the kingdom of God.

Finally, Jesus says that if we want to be his disciples we have to follow him. We look nowhere else for salvation. We trust Christ and Christ alone. We willingly follow in his footsteps. That means we do the same things Jesus did. We love the unlovely. We minister to the hurting. We reach out to the rejected. We pursue justice for the abused. We help the downtrodden feel significant. That’s what it means to follow Christ! We obey his commands without question. We don’t hesitate to follow in his way.

The disciples have been following Jesus for awhile already. Now Jesus speaks clearly, not in parables. He pulls away the veil that has partially hidden who he is and what he is doing. He makes it completely clear what it means to follow him. The disciples now understand that they have to follow Jesus to the very end without question or hesitation. Now there can be no doubts about who they are following or what he requires of them!


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