This Lenten season I decided to delve more deeply into the four gospels. For some reason the following scripture passage really drew my attention: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’ ” (Matthew 16:24)
An appropriate thought to dwell on during lent, right? So I asked myself what can I, a lay person leading a perfectly ordinary life, take away from it? First of all, what does Jesus mean “deny themselves”? Deny myself what? My family? Things and activities that give me pleasure? My family was given to me by God, entrusted to me. So, no. It is my duty to care for them, guide them, and be a Christian role model.
Pleasures? Yes, if they are sinful. But certainly not enjoying a chocolate sundae, or a good dinner, or a nice vacation. But anything that leads me away from God is something He is asking me to deny myself. He wants me to move closer to Him, not away from Him. And, the truth is, I can’t just plant my feet and stand still.
Finally, “Take up your cross and follow me.” What does He mean by that? We all have our crosses to bear, often many throughout the span of our lifetime. Loss of loved ones, illnesses, financial struggles, abuse…just to name a few. Jesus isn’t asking us to pick up a cross, literally, as He did, or even suffer the betrayal, humiliation, and torture He did. Nor hang on a cross for three hours in unbearable pain while onlookers taunted and mocked Him.
I think what He is asking us to do is endure the trials over which we have no control, our crosses, and follow Him–to the finish line. Because at the end of that journey for Christ was not death, but life eternal. No pain, no lack, no loss. He’s asking us to carry our cross, just as He did…to glory.