Matthew 16:21, 24, 13:22,
Our reading today is from Matthew chapter 16. We will read verses 21 and 24.
From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised again. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:21, 24)
I remember years ago talking to an older carpenter who told me that working around a power saw was most dangerous when you were used to it. When you had gotten very comfortable around it. He said that’s the time when you start to let your guard down and you start to get apathetic about working with it. There is a truth in that, that’s also rings true for our spiritual lives.
I heard a pastor say this once.
There have been many more Christian men and women lost to the church through apathy than through any other sin.
It’s an interesting observation. Apathy regarding Jesus and our spiritual lives and being concerned about God and the things of God, that’s something that just creeps into our hearts rather slowly. We start to get sort of numb towards spiritual things in our lives, maybe even toward our sins. So that we really don’t take them seriously anymore. And we also start to get a little bit callous toward God’s grace and how important it is for us. And toward the things of Heaven. And sometimes our worship life can simply be going through the motions and just saying the right words and we can start to let our spiritual lives sort of slide, slide down into apathy.
Jesus in fact uses that picture in his famous parable of the sower. He talks about the plant that grows up, but then is choked off by the weeds. He says
The worry of this world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it produces no fruit. (Matthew 13:22)
Now how different that is in us compared to Jesus the Son of God? Notice in our text how focused he is on the work of coming to save us. Even though it involves going through the cross and all of the suffering that he has in front of him. Even when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane and his disciples wanted to defend him and Peter said shall we strike with the sword? He stopped them and he said permit even this.
He said at one time the Son of Man has come to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus is so focused on what needs to take place for us on the cross. He knows that that’s the only way for us to have our sins paid for so that we can go to heaven. And even while the soldiers are driving the stakes into his wrists he still does not open his mouth.
Now that same Jesus who has done this for each of us so we can go to heaven, now invites us to pick up our cross in life and to follow him. He says
“If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
So what does that mean for us to take up the cross? We often associate that phrase to have a cross with just something bad in our lives, but what Jesus is really talking about with true cross bearing, means anything that is difficult for us because of our relationship to him.
Martin Luther put it this way. What Jesus means is when the world wipes its feet on you because of your faith in Christ. So God calls upon us knowing what wonderful blessings we have through the work of our Savior. He calls upon us to be willing to put up with the hatred of the world. And to also have to deal with the struggles that we have with the devil and our own sinful flesh.
In this Lenten season let us all come to the bloodstained feet of our Lord and Savior and let us also leave His cross with a new resolve toward our lives that we may take up our cross in life and follow Him all the way through the doors of heaven. Amen.