- “…If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, New Living Translation).
- “A righteous person will have many troubles, but the LORD will deliver him [her] from them all.” (Psalm 34:19, International Standard Version)
The background for this reflection is found in Matthew, Chapter 16. In the text, Jesus raises a familiar New Testament theme-the tension that exists between the sacred and the secular. He also highlights two attributes of his disciples and characterizes their lives as burdened.
In the following excerpt Jesus explicitly admonishes Peter for focusing on the secular instead of the spiritual. ‘Jesus turned to Peter and said, “…You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s'” (Matthew 16:23). Jesus’ reprimand identifies spiritually-centered as a key quality of his disciples.
In verse 24, Jesus describes selflessness as another characteristic of discipleship. Jesus makes it clear that those who follow him must give up selfish ambition. They must also understand that following him is more than: lip service, attending religious services, praying, fasting, engaging in good works, and memorizing and quoting Scripture. His disciples are expected to do all the things previously mentioned and more. Each is required to subordinate his or her will to the will of God. God’s will is for them to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel-God loves, saves, delivers, and heals and salvation is free and available to everyone (John 3:16).
Furthermore, Jesus asserts that God’s perfect will: – “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ ’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”[ (Luke:10:27) becomes the desire and personal mantra of every disciple of Christ.
To prepare them for the cost of discipleship Jesus warns against thinking following him protects them from sufferings common to the human experience. Instead, Jesus infers (verse 24) discipleship adds an additional burden to their lives. Because of their message- God is love and Jesus is the only way to God- his followers will lose most of their earthly possessions, including social status and treasured relationships. They will be misquoted, misunderstood, ridiculed, rejected, and ostracized.
In other parts of Scripture Jesus encourages and reassures his disciples that the reward for discipleship far outweighs the high cost of following him ( Matthew 5:11). According to Jesus the sufferings his disciples experience in this life will be rewarded with eternal life- perpetual fellowship with God-Creator.
Food for Thought
- Using your own words, list three examples of biblical love depicted in Scripture.
Close with Prayer