Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
Jesus shares these words with his disciples, only 10 short chapters before He was delivered unto Pilate and given the sentence of DEATH BY CRUCIFIXION. And as I type these words and read over them, my hands tremble and my heart is humbled.
If I’m being real honest with you, I was looking for an entirely different verse when I typed the words, “verse where He took up the cross,” into the Google Search Bar. I was hoping and thinking Google would retrieve the verse, nestled in one of the Gospels, where Jesus was carrying the cross to Golgotha, bearing our sins on His blameless back as He made His way to Calvary.
But alas, Google did not retrieve that verse.
And ya know what?
I think that’s a divine appointment from a loving God who wanted to reach down and touch my anxious soul on a morning where I need to be enveloped in a hug by His holy Word.
See, I got up super-early (like crept down the stairs so I didn’t wake up the two little souls that were snugly tucked into their beds) this morning to peck out this blog post on “How Easter Impacts Me.”
Because this morning I am headed to the hospital to pick up our new foster placement. I’m getting ready to go learn how to love and care for this sweet, baby boy who was born a mere 4.2 lbs with a hole in his heart. I’m getting ready to pick up this fragile, little life… buckle him into his car seat… and bring him into our home and hearts… for however long that may be.
And if I’m being a bazillion percent honest, that makes me scared. REAL SCARED.
Like, I kinda feel like Peter when he boldly said, “Sure Jesus, I’ll get out of the boat and walk on water.” But when he saw the wind and the waves, and felt all the fear and thought through all of the worst-case scenarios, he got a whole lot scared and started to sink. Yep. That’s exactly how I feel this morning. SCARED in the face of the unknown winds and the waves of hard.
We said “yes” to this placement and “yes” to walking toward Jesus but as we are getting out of the boat, the waters feel scary and our feet feel a whole lot wobbly.
So when the words of Matthew 16:24-2 popped onto my screen this morning, I knew it was no accident.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
And as loudly as you can hear a non-audible voice booming in the recesses of your soul, I heard Him say…
Jessica, come after me and deny your comfortable and safe life…
lay down your desires for convenience and control…
let go of your plans and preferred way of living…
sacrifice your fears of the unknown and your worries about the road ahead…
and crucify your tendencies to live your life safely in the boat.
Come to me, and I will show you how to lose your life and gain your soul.
I’ve done it before, dear child, and I’m committed to helping you do the same.
Hopers, that is exactly what He did for us when He died for us.
Like fragile souls, with holes in our hearts, He came to us.
Laying down His position and all perceived rights, He took up the heavy and burdensome cross… bearing our pain and providing our peace.
He didn’t look at our helpless forms and think, “You know what? This is way too much for me.” He didn’t write down a list of pros and cons that favored His security and elevated His comforts; He didn’t push His preferences over our needs; and He didn’t get scared and run. Nope.
He laid down His life, submitted to the Father, and rested in His sovereignty.
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39
And though I shudder to think of EVER comparing myself to my spotless, sinless Savior (because I am NOT HIM and could NEVER BE HIM), He calls my finite self to mirror His infinite self, laying down my life and taking up the cross to follow Him.
Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. John 19:17-18
Dear souls, this is what He did for us, and this is what He calls us to do.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24
Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin… 1 Peter 4:1-2
And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. Matthew 10:38