Luke 9:23-27 (CEV)
23 Then Jesus said to all the people:
If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me. 24 If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will save it. 25 What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself or waste your life? 26 If you are ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his glory and in the glory of his Father and the holy angels. 27 You can be sure that some of the people standing here will not die before they see God’s kingdom.
So if you read Saturday’s study you remember that Jesus asked the disciples who they thought he was – and they said that he was the Messiah. Then yesterday Jesus explained what kind of a Messiah he was. And today we find out the upshot of all of that – it matters what kind of Messiah Jesus is because that’s who we’re following!
We know that the disciples come from lots of different backgrounds. That at least one of them is a Roman collaborator (Matthew) and at least one of them (Judas) was from the Zealots (the armed revolutionary group), and presumably there was a fairly good representation among the other disciples for the other points of view that were common at the time. If you look more broadly at the people who were following Jesus in general – the people to whom he is now addressing – I’m certain that you would have found people who held almost every political and religious belief of the time.
And I feel like up until this point there might have been a lot of varied ideas about what following Jesus was going to turn into. Maybe some expected that when the crowds got big enough Jesus would start to give revolutionary commands. Maybe others expected that when they got big enough Jesus would describe his ten-step political platform, or begin to call for the overthrow of certain political or religious leaders.
But the upshot of who Jesus is, the upshot of what KIND of Messiah he is, is that following Jesus is going to look very different than most of these folks – and probably most of us – expected.
“If any of you wants to be my follower you must …” I can’t say that I know for certain what Jesus was getting at with each of these things, but I have a few thoughts.
“You must take up your [instrument of torture] each day and follow me.” Can you imagine how the first people to hear Jesus say this must have felt? They saw people being crucified on crosses on a regular basis. They saw people carrying their cross to the place of execution. Carrying your cross meant you were a criminal in the eyes of the state. Carrying a cross meant that you were about to die. So if you knew you only had six months to live, how would that change what you did today?
“If you want to save your life you must destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will save it.” The Kingdom life is upside-down from the brokenness of how we’re used to doing life, but if we’re willing to give up our old ways of doing things, Jesus offers a transformation that is life-giving. Is there a part of your brokenness that you keep holding on to, trying to find a way to fit it in to following Jesus? How’s that working out for you?
“What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself or waste your life?” At least one palliative care nurse has taken the time to document the five top regrets people had as they were dying. They were as follows:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected out of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I’d stayed in better touch with my friends.
- I wish that I’d let myself be happier.
What does it change when we make it our goal to follow Jesus instead? What does it change when we focus on Kingdom priorities instead of wealth or pleasing other people?
“If you are ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his glory and in the glory of his Father and the holy angels.” This hard, difficult complicated message? This Son of Man who challenges how we think and how we act and how we understand ourselves and God and our relationship with God? Apparently it’s not just words. Apparently it matters how we think about it, and it matters how we respond.Journal Questions:
- If you knew you only had six months to live, how would that change what you did today?
- Is there a part of your brokenness that you keep holding on to, trying to find a way to fit it in to following Jesus? How’s that working out for you?
- What were the big priorities in your family growing up? What would have to change for you to focus on following Jesus’ Kingdom priorities?
- What would it look like to be ashamed of Jesus or his message? What would it look like to embrace this message?