In today’s Gospel, the reflection is centered on Matthew 16:24. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Jesus is preaching about the conditions of discipleship – to become his follower or disciple.
A terse and precise command to emulate the perfect model but never an equal and never being able to surpass the master Himself. Short enough to understand, hard to follow?
In Luke and Mark, it demonstrates the magnanimity of Jesus in that His command is not offered specifically only to His disciples. He also preached to the crowd, the multitudes. In fact, it is a personal invitation to all of us! Furthermore, Luke emphasized taking up his cross “daily.”
While essential nutrition nourishes our physical body every day, taking up his cross daily maintains the momentum to strengthen our spirituality through and with Jesus when we are following Him.
This maxim is a popular and oft-quoted verse for the last two thousand years and still continues to provoke people to search within themselves. This set of three simple actions has changed the course of countless lives. A clarion call to be Christ-like. To others, it could be a siren call to be ignored.
The Bible provides passages of some who willingly accepted His command and acted upon it immediately.
Let’s begin with Matthew 4:18 in the Call of the First Disciples. Jesus said to Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. He saw two other brothers, James, and his brother John, in the boat, mending their nets. He called them. Immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.
However an immediate “Yes” to Him also contains a set of perimeters. A person should let the dead bury their dead. Matthew 8:22. No excuse is to be entertained and those who love their father or mother or son or daughter more than Jesus are not worthy of Him. Matthew 10:37.
Accepting Jesus is to possess a one-track obedience to Him. No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God. And not to serve two masters. It is to deny one and to serve only one Master – Jesus. Be focused and not double minded when walking in His footsteps to eternity as there is no turning back.
Michael Nah and Alex Hardie