Readings for August 30, 2020
Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9
We, as Christians, extol the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. We say things like “Jesus is the final sacrifice,” or “Jesus paid the ultimate price,” or even “Jesus ransomed us from sin.” And all of this is true and worth proclaiming. However, part of me thinks we say these things to keep the spotlight off ourselves. In doing so, perhaps even intentionally, we miss the meaning of his example and its message for our own lives.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
This message is so important it appears in the Gospel narratives five times (here in Matthew 16:24 but also in Matthew 10:38; in Mark 8:34; and twice again in Luke’s Gospel in 9:23 and 14:27). The emphasis of the repeated message indicates this is no passing thought or random teaching. Jesus, the Son of God who accepted his humiliation and death on the Cross, wants us to follow his example.
This is a difficult teaching. I, for one, am someone who often seeks comfort more than sacrifice. I like to have my Starbucks in the morning and my craft brew on the weekends. I seek comfort food, pillow-top mattresses, memory foam shoes, overstuffed chairs, and mood music. By themselves, none of these things are bad. Yet I can’t help but wonder if in seeking first the small rewards of this lifetime, I might be shunning the full rewards of a life in Christ.
Most of us, thankfully, will not be put to death. But Jesus tells me my walk with him must include sacrifice, even at the cost of my own comfort. But denying ourselves may mean giving up our place in line or in traffic and not grumbling. Denying ourselves likely means refusing to seek credit for everything we accomplish. Denying ourselves most certainly involves loving others to the point of doing so without an expectation of returned love or favor. And denying ourselves absolutely means we must forgive even when we know doing so doesn’t erase the hurt and may not change the heart of those we forgive. It won’t be easy, but to understand and put into place this full message of Christ brings the Kingdom of God, the Good News, right to our doorstep.
My Lord Jesus, you humbled yourself as a sacrifice for our love. May I live out that sacrifice for love of other and in so doing give all glory and honor to God the Father through your example of love. May my daily walk with you follow your example and your teaching that I may be sanctified in your name. Amen