Jesus asks us, ‘What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?’ This is ours to wrestle with. Where do our values lie? In what or whom will we place our trust and fulfillment? Will we choose self or look to a higher calling?
22 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.”
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?
On the heels of Jesus asking his disciples what people were saying about his identity, the Lord gave his followers a preview of his death and resurrection. And then he translated this truth into a challenge for discipleship.
Jesus came to suffer and die for us. His own followers had a hard time with his destiny, as they expected and hoped for an earthly king to free them from Roman oppression. Rather than overthrow the local government, he accepted Roman rule and Jesus embraced his own fate, knowing that only by dying and rising again could he defeat death and provide the way for eternal life.
That was Jesus’ cross. That’s right. Jesus’ cross was the cross. The metaphor for our personal trials and tribulations started with Jesus sharing first about his own literal cross and then telling his followers that each of them would have to take up their own crosses.
The elements of taking up one’s cross are self-denial, daily embrace of one’s destiny, and following the example of Jesus. Jesus’ own words of instruction reveal his character – he denied his own earthly feelings and temptations to go his own way (of which we get a glimpse in the Garden of Gethsemane). He also spoke regularly (in code sometimes) of his imminent death; as he set aside whatever human desires he might have held, he embraced God the Father’s plan for him.
The choice, according to Jesus, is between saving one’s own life now, which puts our eternal life at risk, and giving up one’s life now in order to receive eternal salvation in heaven. Jesus asks us, ‘What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?’ This is ours to wrestle with. Where do our values lie?
In what or whom will we place our trust and fulfillment?
Will we choose self or Jesus?