Daily Lent Devotional #12 (March 20, 2011)

Mark 8: 34-37

34 “Then Jesus 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. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

What does it mean to “take up your cross” and follow Jesus?  I’ve always found it fascinating that Jesus mentions the cross (a Roman execution device) prior to actually being crucified.  He knew the path that He was on, but no one else did.  Even when Jesus tried to pre-warn the disciples about his eventual death, they couldn’t accept it.  Somehow that image of pain as a physical burden that we carry was not meant just for Him, but for all that follow Him.

There are two types of “crosses” that come into play for every Christian:

1.)  Persecution/Suffering Because of Following Jesus –  Depending on what country, culture, or time in history people live in; there has always been a cost for following Jesus.  Sometimes its been social stigma, other times its been financial consequences.  It can lead to violence and even death.  According to tradition, all of the Apostles were martyred for their faith except for John (and that certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying on the authorities part!).  It is believed that Peter was to be crucified and begged to be crucified upside-down since he didn’t feel worthy to die the same way Jesus did.

2.)  Temptations/Physical Problems/Bad Life Experiences –  We use this term in conversation (“it”s my cross to bear”).  Each person has their own physical shortcomings.  Each of us has life experiences that leave scars on our lives, with some running deeper than others.  Also, all of us struggle with specific types of sins and temptations.  Not everyone is tempted by alcohol.  Not everyone has anger or anxiety issues.  Not everyone struggles with sexual sins.  We each have personal pain and trials that we face, but we’re encouraged to seek out others that can relate to us and encourage us.  We are also reminded to turn to Jesus for direction and strength to face the cross-bearing that is uniquely ours.

In closing, here’s some heart-felt words from Henri Nouwen.  He encourages us to “own” our shortcomings and problems (not to hide or run from them), even realizing that God can bring healing to others through our pain and experiences:

“Your pain is deep, and it won’t just go away… Your call is to bring that pain home.  As long as your wounded part remains foreign to your adult self, your pain will injure you as well as others.  Yes, you have to incorporate your pain into your self.  This is what Jesus means when he asks you to take up your cross.  He encourages you to recognize and embrace your unique suffering”

Blessings,

Pastor Josh

Published in: on March 20, 2011 at 6:00 AM  Leave a Comment  
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