So You are a Disciple...
Mark 8:34-35 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it."
In Mark's Gospel, this passage comes just after Jesus rebuked Peter. The context of that rebuke and the fact that He called all the disciples and the crowd that was there at the time to His side tells us that this is a passage that we need to examine further. Many call ourselves 'Christians' but perhaps we do not understand exactly what that work means. This passage helps us to flesh in the details a bit.
So what does being a Christ-Follower entail? Jesus lays it on the line and He mentions 4 things that we need to do in order to be associated with Jesus and His ministry.
1) Deny yourself. This is not popular in today's culture, is it? Where we are enticed into going to spas, vacations that are extravagant, eating way too many things that are unhealthy for us, cajoled into watching infomercials on how we can become rich by working only 2 hours a day. We transfer such warped ideas to our own lives and that seeps into our idea of what God should be doing for us. After all, aren't we worth it?
But Jesus tells us differently. "Deny...", he says. We view that as a suggestion rather than a command. but that is not the context and that is not the language He uses. It is much more than a suggestion. It is a statement of hortatory fact. He is telling us that we need to deny ourselves and put Him and our mission first. Just as He has done. Just like Jesus did. Philippians 2:6-8 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. How about you? Can you say that? Have you emptied yourself and filled the remainder with Jesus?
2) Take up YOUR cross. This is not a one-time event. The Greek construction here in Mark is a present durative which suggests that you continually pick up your cross. The burden of the cross followed Jesus throughout His ministry. The time he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, Luke describe His praying so intense that he sweat blood. He asked His Father then, if there was any way that this cup could be passed, that it would be, but in the end He had to say, 'Not my will, but Yours' How about us? Are we making a decision every day to pick up our cross? To do the work that Jesus has set before us? I pray that we all have the fortitude and resolve to do this. It is an essential part of being a Christ-Follower.
3) Follow Me. Not only are we to deny ourselves and pick up our cross, we are to follow Jesus. When I was young, my Dad took me on a hike in the woods. I followed him because I knew he knew which way to go. The path was not always easy nor pleasant...but I had the confidence in him because he told me he had walked this same path when he was young and he knew where he was at and he knew where we were going. Somehow this made the trek just a little more tolerable...a little more enjoyable. Jesus himself has trod this path we are on. He has been there and He has done it. Maybe that does not make it any easier for us, I don't know, but it does give me confidence that since He has done it, somehow I can do it too. He does not say it will be easy...as the next statement He says shows.
4) If you want to save your life...lose it. Wow, if we were worried about the first 3 conditions, this should really make us ponder and take notice. What Jesus? Lose my life in order to save it? If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. In order for us to gain eternal life, we must pass from this one. We must give ourselves fully to the Lord's work. We must die in order to be born again. This is not the first time Jesus has used such words. Recall that he used the metaphor of a grain that needs to die in order to produce the seed that would become the next generation. Here He says that if you are not willing to lose your very life, to give God all of yourself, you cannot call yourself a disciple. You cannot have eternal life.
Now the good news in all this is Jesus has not left us alone. he has promised to be with us every step of the way...a way that he himself has trod...a way which he has blazed for us. We will not get lost as long as we follow Him...although from time to time we may get off the path...we will complete the tasks he has set before us. We will persevere because Jesus has done it. He has called us and His Holy Spirit is in us. We cannot fail as long as we cling to HIM.
Ponder this today. Meditate on His Word. Give thanks to His mighty name!