A few words about following Jesus

A few words about following Jesus

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Matthew 16: 21-24

In the book of Matthew, these few lines of scripture reveal to us three simple things to do as a disciple of Jesus: deny, take up, and follow.  Before journeying to this part of the text, Jesus has rebuked Peter for his obstinacy in what Jesus knows is the will of God for Jesus’ own life.  Jesus has let Peter know that the time is coming for his life to come to an end.  Due to Peter’s response, one that Jesus saw as a potential obstacle to the will of God, Jesus rebuked him and it became the lesson to everyone.  Because of what transpired between him and Peter, Jesus tells all the disciples that first, they must deny themselves.

To deny yourself means to refrain from satisfying your own desires or to refuse to agree to something.  Peter had to let go of what he wanted to happen in Jesus’ life.  He had to take the focus off of himself and lay aside his own will, desire and opinion.  He had to refrain from satisfying himself, however lovingly it may have appeared.  And I bet we can all relate to this in some way: God’s plan is X and we are trying to do Y.  God’s plan is to be holy and we’re just trying to have a good time.  You get the point.  Our intentions our good but not part of the plan.  Jesus was telling Peter to focus on the plan…deny yourself.

Next Jesus says, take up your cross.  Jesus’ cross represented all that separated humanity from God.  He conquered death to give us life.  He fulfilled what God wanted of him, and we are to fulfill our own God-given purpose.  We each have our own distinct crosses to bear, which can be any number of things, such as attitudes or past experiences.  The cross might also be like author John Yoder put it, “like his Lord’s, the price of his social nonconformity.”  Sometimes our cross means doing and being different than other people and society itself.  It’s up to each of us to work with God to figure out what our cross entails and own it, and let its lessons and intricacies impact the path we choose.

Third, Jesus says follow me.  To follow means to accept as authority, to obey or go in pursuit of.  Jesus was not just telling the disciples to learn from his teachings, he was telling them to look at his behavior, how he portrayed himself, what he stood for.  He kept preaching despite negative reactions, he ate with sinners, he spoke truth when it was neither comfortable nor welcomed, he was humble, committed, disciplined, and helped others and so on.  As a disciple of Jesus we are to look at what Jesus did with his life and follow that.  Follow the truth.  Follow doing things for God that others look at you crazy for.  Follow those in need of healing and love.

I think we all are challenged to go in pursuit of this type of discipleship.  We are provoked to deny one’s own self in pursuit of the Divine will, take up one’s own cross that connects to others yet is unique and special, and follow the path toward the Divine like the man who impacted the world.  It might be challenging.  It will be.  No one ever said it would be easy; however, the journey is one that is life changing.  Peace.