A Midweek Devotional - Taking up our Cross
From Unfolding Grace:
“As Jesus journey’s to Jerusalem, Mark shows Him to be Isaiah’s prophesied servant. Jesus must ‘give His life as a ransom for many.’ If anyone would follow Him, one must admit one’s need for forgiveness. Sinners need to be reconciled to God. Sinners need their King to die for their sins.
Jesus also teaches His disciples what it means to follow Him. The life of discipleship is the way of the cross. It is a way of life in which service is greatness, sin is resisted, and suffering is expected. It is a life in which we deny ourselves for a greater treasure: Christ Himself.”
Wednesday, August 11th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Mark 5-8
Focused Passage for Reflection - Mark 8:27-38
Reflecting on the Text:
Jesus knew how to ask a question. His questions were often both open-ended and highly pointed. Jesus used questions to draw people out of themselves. He used questions to teach, encourage, and exhort. In Mark 8, He does all of that with two strategic questions, asked one after another. (Note the parallel accounts in Matthew 16:13-20 and Luke 9:18-20.)
At first, Jesus asks the disciples who the people say He is. At first blush, we might think He is trying to gauge the effectiveness of His communication…as if He were checking some polling data. But then He turned the question. By asking “who do YOU say that I am”, Jesus separated the disciples from the crowd. He made it personal. And in drawing out their answer, He was also drawing out the implications for their lives.
Peter spoke up for the twelve. (Imagine that!) And his answer moved away from the general response of the crowd to a very specific declaration. “You are the Christ.” Matthew’s account offers slightly more detail. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In response (once again from Matthew) Jesus declares that this knowledge is supernatural, given to him by God Himself. This means, at least in part, that though Peter could confess Jesus’ true identity, he didn’t yet understand the implications.
That’s ok. No one else understood what the Messiah had come to do either. So Jesus told the disciples to keep quiet. He was still training these men, so He got right to it. In response to this confession, Jesus got a lot more specific in His self-disclosure. He spoke of His coming death and resurrection.
Peter didn’t like that one bit. He didn’t imagine a suffering servant, even though Isaiah was pretty clear as to this mission. (see Isaiah 53) Peter actually tried to rebuke Jesus, but Jesus quickly turned the tables on the one who had just spoken of Him as the Christ. He told Peter that he had his mind on the things of this world and not on the things of God.
Then Jesus turned to the rest of the disciples…and us. He described the Christian life as one that is to be lived in Christ. Verse 34 describes that life as one marked by self-denial, submission, and giving one’s self over completely to following Jesus. It is the life of taking up one’s cross. That doesn’t at all sound like the way of the world, but Jesus describes it as the way of true life, the way of true joy.
Those words in Mark 8 were not meant merely for Peter. They are meant for you and me. Jesus is calling you and me to a life of blessed self-denial…to a life of discipleship. But what does that mean specifically?
I’ve asked that question of myself this week. What does it mean for me to deny myself and take up my cross? Honestly, I don’t know. At least I don’t know in terms of specific action items. And I don’t know for you either. I don’t think it refers to only one big drastic change. I don’t think it means a move to the mission field in Asia, though a major transition could be part of it. For most of us though, I think it is a lifestyle of submission and dependence.
So without trying to offer a specific form of cross-bearing, can I offer a specific posture of prayer? Will you be willing to join me in thoughtful, intentional prayer? Would you be willing to make this your prayer: “Lord Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God! You are my life, you are my hope. And you are worthy of my worship…in all of life. Would you show me today how I can take up my cross and follow you? Would you show me in the small everyday moments what it means to truly follow you? Would you show me in the big overarching themes what it means to truly follow you? Lord Jesus, take my life and multiply it for your glory. Amen!”
Questions for personal reflection:
Who do you say that Jesus is?
Are you willing to live a life consistent with that confession?
Will you begin by praying for Him to lead you?