Luke 9:18 Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” 20 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” 21 He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 23 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”
Jesus was well aware of his disciples’ expectations of him and the implications for their own futures. They expected Jesus to rule as king of Israel, seated on a throne, with his disciples helping him run the show. There would be wealth and status and power and authority – particularly for those closest to him. So imagine their confusion and distress in hearing Jesus’ words in v.22 – 24.
When I was in my early 20s I was working for USAA in San Antonio – just a couple of years out of college. As part of their executive development program I was working full-time during the day and studying for my M.B.A. at night. It was exhausting but I was excited by what I thought the future held for me. My family was proud of me, especially my mother, which meant a lot to me.
At the same time I was getting deeper into my Christian faith. After a while it became clear the Lord had different plans for me. My future would be in serving the church, not following a career in business. It took me a while, but I finally surrendered to the leading of the Lord and enrolled in seminary. I can remember telling my family about this. Some were happy for me, but some were not – including my own mother who thought leaving USAA was a mistake. Why leave a good thing in your hand for the unknown path of ministry? She meant well, of course, wanting the best for me. I might have done the same if the shoe were on the other foot.
So when I read v.23-24 those memories come back to me. And of course the “take up” the cross didn’t stop there. The Lord has called me and my family to do this again and again – to depart from our own expectations and submit to the leading of the Lord. It hasn’t been easy. But I’ve never regretted it. The Lord has always brought blessing along with the grief and anxiety of change and loss.
I wonder how the Lord might be calling you to move in a different direction, to take up your cross and follow. It’s normal to be wary of this. Leaving the known for the unknown is hard, especially when the known is pretty darn good. If you’re conflicted about this, I pray the Lord will give you grace to overcome your fear and doubt, to trust the Lord with a future you can’t see.
Lord let it be so. Amen.