LIFE AND DEATH
Scripture Reading: Luke 9:22-25
And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?
May I ask you to imagine something for a moment, because there is no other way to understand this correctly? Yes? Ok. Imagine you are a Jew in 1st century Palestine. You have been waiting for the Messiah for the longest time, somebody who would liberate Israel from the yoke of Roman rule and establish David's throne again. You've been following this guy called Jesus for a while now, and you've seen him do some pretty fantastic stuff. He is standing in front of you now, and he asks you a question. "Who do you say I am?" What's your answer? Well, you say, "You are the Messiah! The Savior!" Excellent. You answered what Peter answered (see Luke 9:20).
Then, he tells you not to tell anybody who he is. Then, to your complete shock, he says he will suffer many things, be rejected by everybody who is anybody, and then be killed! He continues by saying that he will be raised on the third day, but you didn't hear that because all you heard was the Messiah — the SAVIOR — you and everybody else was waiting for is going to suffer and be killed! Take a minute to work your head around that. THEN, he says that if you want to continue to follow him, you gotta suffer and die too! Now wrap your head around THAT!
Now, we're not Jews in 1st century Palestine waiting for the Savior to come. The Savior has come, died, and risen. All those who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life (see John 3;16). So, do we still need to suffer and die? The short answer is yes. Jesus says, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." We all have new life in Christ, but we have to die to the "old" life to live this "new" life. There are still vestiges of the "old person" in us, and that person has to die. There are four aspects to what Jesus asks us to do.
One, I must deny myself. This means choosing to follow Jesus' way, and we cannot follow his way if we want our way! Therefore, I have to deny myself. If we break it up, it becomes easier to understand. Deny MY SELF. Two, I have to take my cross. This isn't lifting life's burdens; this is dying to MY SELF. Three, I have to do it daily. We may die to something today, but it comes back to life tomorrow, so it is a daily dying to MY SELF. And, finally, four, I have to follow Jesus. This means going with him wherever he takes us. And, for what purpose all this, you might ask?
Well, to live. Because, as Jesus asks, what's the point of having everything in the world to satisfy MY SELF if it means losing MYSELF for all eternity. It's a matter of life and death, quite literally.