Losing Your Life and Finding It
Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day.
Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. "Heaven preserve you, Lord;" he said "this must not happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God's way but man's."
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.
As you look back on your life you remember the crosses you had to take up and to carry. You may remember many small crosses and some big ones too. I invite you to think about one of these crosses, perhaps the heaviest one, and to ask yourself this question: Has this cross led me to some kind of resurrection and new life? This is what Jesus promised; has it happened for you?
There are two kinds of crosses. We carry a cross when we have to do something difficult; we carry another kind of cross when we have to endure something difficult.
The Cross of Doing
Children may find it hard to go back to school after their summer holidays. They know they will have to get up early, they will have to sit in class and often be quiet; they will have to pay attention even when the subject is boring or hard to understand. In the evening there will be homework to do. They have a cross to carry. But that cross is a way to new life: they are learning more and more, they are enjoying the company of many other children, and they are preparing for their future lives.
When young people get married, they are undertaking something that is demanding; they are taking up a cross. Each will have to think of the other; one cannot always have things one’s own way, and they will have to put up with each other. Yet when the marriage works reasonably well the couple finds new life and joy.
Parents too know about crosses. They sacrifice themselves for their children; they work hard to provide for them; they worry about them even when they are adults and have children of their own. In their old age they may be able to say: ‘I took up the cross of rearing my children and I found life in doing that. I would not be without them.’
When Jesus ministered in Galilee he had great success in the beginning; huge crowds came and they were in admiration of his teaching and his miracles. But the scribes and Pharisees began to oppose him and at a certain point Jesus saw that he had to go up to Jerusalem to confront these religious authorities at the seat of their power. He knew how dangerous this was, that it would in fact cost him his life; but he made up his mind and no amount of persuasion from Peter could stop him.
The Cross of Enduring
So we carry our cross when we do things that are difficult; we carry it too when we endure what is difficult. Such crosses can be very heavy indeed. In death notices we often read, ‘after a long illness bravely borne.’ Heavy too is the cross of bereavement. And so also is the cross of a broken relationship.
Wisdom to know the difference
As we carry a cross it is not always clear whether we need to do something or simply endure, and we need wisdom to make the right decision. For example, if the cross is domestic violence, carrying that cross must not mean enduring it; rather it must mean taking firm action to have the violence stopped, or removing oneself from the abusive and dangerous situation. Likewise when the cross is an addiction, - our own or that of someone close to us - Alcoholics Anonymous wisely recommends us to pray for ‘the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.’
As you think about the heaviest cross you carried in the past, you may see that it has led you to new life. If you carry a heavy cross right now you may see no meaning in it; you may feel forsaken as Jesus did on Calvary, and you can only commend yourself into the hands of God, remembering his promise that the cross does lead to resurrection and new life in this world and in the next.
Prayer: Psalm 117 (118)
I was hard pressed and was falling
but the Lord came to help me.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
he is my Saviour.
The Lord’s right hand has triumphed;
his right hand raised me.
I shall not die, I shall live
and recount his deeds.