34 After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 35 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. 36 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? 37 What will people give in exchange for their lives? 38 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One[a] will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Years ago I heard this story about the cross. Did you know there’s an “I” in cross? It’s made by the vertical line in the cross and it symbolizes our selves, our ego, our sins. The horizontal line on the cross, “—“ is Jesus, at work in our lives, crossing out the “I” and transforming us into disciples who walk the way of love by following Jesus. When God looks at us, he sees the cross, not the sinful “I,” for we are God’s redeemed children through Christ.
This daily crossing out of the self isn’t painless for us. As disciples, we die to self every time we follow Jesus instead of doing what we, or the world, wants us to do. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit are we able to be transformed to be like Jesus. When we see the cross in front of us, we have a choice, follow Jesus, and gain the Kin-dom, or follow yourself and lose everything.
These sayings of Jesus are hard for us to hear. Jesus was preparing his disciples for what was going to happen, his death on the cross as a condemned criminal that brought shame. The disciples didn’t want to hear this, they wanted Jesus to be victorious over Rome. But Jesus wanted to be obedient and do God’s will, even dying on the cross for victory over sin and death. Jesus chose the cross and gained the Kin-dom and eternal life for all who believe. The world thought the cross was the end for Jesus, but we know it was just the beginning.
What Jesus was describing to his disciples is the life of every disciple. While Jesus gave his life for us on the cross to save us, we don’t want to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, because the cross leads to death. It means losing our life as we know it and surrendering ourselves to God. It means the death of self and no longer conforming to the world. But it also means that when we die in Christ, we lose our life of sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to life eternal in the Kin-dom of God. We have to lose our life by surrendering ourselves to the grace of God, so we can be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into disciples who follow Jesus.
by Jeneene Reduker
For Pondering & Prayer
Every day, every hour that we live as disciples, we have to make a decision, to follow Jesus, or avoid the cross that is in front of us. This is a lifetime of work, and we will fail. But with the Holy Spirit’s help, we will learn to choose the cross in front of us, and be transformed, until our “I” disappears and all that remains is the love of Jesus shining through us into the world.
Today we will be faced with situations where we will need to choose to follow Jesus, or ourselves. Which will you choose? Pray for strength and guidance as you do throughout your day.
Prayer: Holy and Loving God, we want to choose the cross to follow Jesus, but we need your Spirit to strengthen and guide us throughout our day. Cross out our “I’s” so that all that remains is love and we become like Jesus. Amen.