31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One [or Son of Man] must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” 32 He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. 33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”
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?
Resisting Barnum’s invitation, Philip Carlyle said, “Let's just say that I find it much more comfortable... admiring your show from afar.” And Barnum murmured, “Comfort, the enemy of progress.” Jesus' closest followers became uncomfortable when he talked about suffering and crosses. Scholar Craig Evans wrote, “In that time there was no sentimentality attached to Jesus' death, and certainly not to the cross, a horrifying symbol in Roman antiquity.”* Peter found the idea of Jesus on a cross appalling. But Jesus didn’t shrink from using the cross as a positive, yet hugely challenging, symbol of the cost of following him.
Lord Jesus, at times, like Peter, I have strong ideas about how you should do things, especially as they affect me. Maybe at least one part of “the cross” you ask me take up is releasing my own ideas in favor of yours. Amen.
* Craig A. Evans and N. T. Wright, Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened, ed. By Troy A. Miller. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009, p. 4.
** David E. Garland, comments on Mark in Matthew, Mark, Luke: Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Volume 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002, p. 255.
I have many memories from my childhood in KidsCOR and Rezlife, but one sticks out the most. I had just completed my junior year of high school as we departed on our mission trip to Denver, Colorado. We started our week by dividing up into groups and hearing about our job sites. My group got to help lead the Vacation Bible Camp.
I was placed in a room with first graders. We talked about the Bible and how Jesus loves us, but during lunch I saw something amazing happening before my eyes. I saw these innocent kids thinking about God, and really wanting to learn about him. Therefore, for the whole week each of the children took turns to have their questions answered. One little boy chose to not ask his questions with everyone listening, but when he could get an individualized response from one of us. He and I really connected that week–-so much so that on the last day of VBC he cried to his mom because he didn’t want this week to be over.
I look back on that time and see the same inquisitive nature in the children I witness on Sundays. I've had the amazing opportunity to relive that VBC week, only this time here at my church home.
The verse “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34) jumped off the page when I read today’s passage. I remember those little kids wondering about Jesus, only to realize they are tomorrow’s VBC leaders. In order to be a leader a person needs to be a follower--of Jesus. We can’t change what happened in the past; we can’t control what is to come. All we have to do is have faith in the Lord and trust that he has our best interests in mind.
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