“ And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

In a classic putting of the cart before the horse, the rabbi’s words are delivered to us as the verse of the day the day after his disciple Peter expounded on it. In context, this speech is recorded right after  Peter confesses Jesus is not simply another John the Baptist, Elijah, or some other prophet, but the Christ, and Jesus has told him what being the Christ means–suffering even to the point of crucifixion and death, but also being raised to life again on the third day.  Now he reminds them to be this rabbi’s disciple, we must  be like him in everything and follow all of his footsteps. More to the point, we must be willing to suffer as he suffered. We must be willing to deny ourselves, but deny ourselves what? Suffer what? Whatever he asks of us, whatever he brings us to.

This does not mean we must suffer in silence. Even Jesus wept before God in Gethsemane and wrestled with the natural human instincts to save ourselves and avoid pain and suffering and death. Even Jesus, in his darkest hour on the cross, cried out, “God, God, why have you forsaken me?” He in these moments gives us a model we can follow when we’re struggling to deny ourselves, when we’re feeling abandoned or plain old sorry for ourselves.

But he also reminds us of the prize: we too shall rise again. Sunday is coming. New life will spring forth out of the death we experience, literal and symbolic.

Lord, thank you for your example. Thank you for your presence with us. I pray we would always seek you and know you are with us. Open our eyes today and our understanding of what crosses you have called us to bear today and in this life. Grant us the grace to sincerely say, as you did, “Lord if there be any way, let this cup pass from me, but not my will, but yours be done.” In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

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