He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?”
One might think Jesus needs a new PR person! He needs help in coming up with better branding for His message than a cross. How much consumer appeal is there in carrying a cross or losing one’s life! Exactly what is it that Jesus is getting at in today’s provocative scripture?
Just the thought of carrying a cross would have gotten the attention of Jesus’ listeners in Roman-occupied Galilee. They would have thought of the all-too-frequent spectacle of a condemned prisoner made to carry his cross through the city to his place of execution. By carrying the cross he was publically declaring his forced submission to an authority he had once resisted.
But now Jesus calls for people to take up their crosses and declare to the world their decision to follow Him. Jesus was asking them, as He is asking me, to deny their false selves with their fancied illusions and obsessions in order to choose life by following Him.
Jesus’ words about denying self hit a nerve with me. Denying self does not appeal to me as a card-carrying member of the Me Generation. Not when the culture is about self and self-fulfillment, self-actualization, self-confidence, self-assertion, self-esteem, self-development, self-love and Selfies going viral. Yet, here is Jesus counter-culturally calling me to “deny” self.
Significantly, the Greek word aparnesastho, translated “deny”, is the very word Jesus used to foretell of Peter “denying” Jesus. In that moment of trial, Peter denied any connection to Jesus, denied that he even knew Him.
This tells us much about what it means to deny self. It means to deny connection to self as the center of life, to deny self as the core of our being and source of our significance and security. It is to deny any acquaintance with the ‘false self’ in order to discover our ‘true self’ in following Christ. To take up our crosses and follow Jesus through our cities and towns is to declare allegiance to Jesus alone, to say with the apostle Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). For me to live in any other way is to miss the joy and fulfillment of the life Jesus promises!
PLANT A THOUGHT… Repeat, Tell, Write, Create
A Fellow Traveler,