Dear reader, it cannot be emphasized enough. In checking in with Luke 9:22-25 [next paragraph], it’s becoming abundantly clear how radical the Gospel “lifestyle” is meant to be. I say radical, not fanatical. Please pause to ponder the difference before reading on.
“Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?”
Matthew’s account [Matthew 16:13-28] of this is more detailed, as it includes Peter’s realization of Who Jesus really was. That however was followed with Peter’s protest when Jesus began to explain about His suffering and death which were to follow. This is the incident where Peter is first called “a stone” for his testimony of Jesus’ identity, followed by Jesus calling him “Satan” for his attempt to stop Him from walking the path that was to follow. Peter goes from sublime to ridiculous in one easy step. The “Stone” sinks to the bottom.
In this we can see a common pattern in lack of understanding the cross. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God! Therefore in my human thinking I see nothing but the success and glory road ahead. [As the old song says, “… nothing but blue skies from now on…”] What did You just say? Arrest, trial, a cross? Whaaaaaaaat?”
Like Peter we maybe don’t get it, and by our view of how we think things ought to be, we rebuke Him! “God forbid it, Lord!” The perplexed disciple cries out. “Surely You don’t mean that the gospel life is not about looking out for number one and grabbing for all the gusto! And a lot of people think You should get involved in politics, Jesus – you know, become a king and throw off the Romans. But this? Jesus, You are crazy if You think this is what has to happen. And I really don’t think I should live a life that really is about picking up my cross; after all you did it all for me, so I can live however I please and let the good times roll.
Pilgrim, you need to read the message – the whole truth, the only truth, and nothing but the truth.
The Cross is a Mystery. It’s a paradox. It’s highly metaphysical. It’s a plot to overthrow the evil powers that rule this world – through love, through service, through crucifixion of the flesh, through daily repentance. It’s not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord. And when the Cross is embraced this way, there’s nothing here to attract the adversary. But he does use great subtlety to get you back onto the highway and into the fast lane where the world likes to be, and where you’re cross is no threat to him.
I heard someone, who is going through a significant amount of trials, say the other day, “I know I have to do this now; it’s what the Lord has me doing, but I just wish …, I just want me back!
Pausing for a moment, I felt I should have had some remedy to offer. But later as I pondered it, it occurred to me that the conversation could be taken up again, and it would go something like, “You know what? You are going to get “me” back, but it is going to be the me Jesus wants to make of you, not the me your ego wants to create. That’s how the Cross works, and releasing the old goals and dreams and pretty rainbows to the Lord will yield more than you could ever ask or think. It will be the me who is a new creation, a resurrected me, a me that may be unrecognizable at first because it’s so vastly different and radiant, full of compassion, not complaint.”
I really think that’s how it works. I’ve personally never seen it fail. That’s just one example of what He meant when He said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”
Jesus really should have the last word.