Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
For the first 18 years of my life, I lived the life of a Roman Catholic. I was baptized as a baby, received my first communion and penance in grade school, and went through years of theology classes in an all-boys Catholic high-school. Yet, I would say that I may have been just as startled as some of the disciples at the truth revealed to them by Jesus in these verses.
Just as Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?”, it is often necessary to ask that to ourselves. You may have been a Christian all your life, but have you slipped into a life of “easy Christianity”? You attend church services every Sunday; tithe consistently; volunteer once, twice, maybe three times per year or maybe you even volunteer weekly on Sundays. Maybe you pray nightly or pray weekly, but as life goes on swimmingly, do you remember what all of this is for? We need to remind ourselves of these verses often.
As Alexander MacLaren stated, “We see our beliefs more clearly, and hold them more firmly, when we put them into definite words. … [Jesus’] question is all-important for us. Our conceptions of Christ’s nature and office determine our relation to Him and our whole cast of life.” Do we respond as Peter did, “God’s Messiah,” or is he merely our genie and therefore, nothing more than just another being among the idols this world worships? Jesus emphasized what was to come: his suffering, death and resurrection were necessary in order to be our Messiah. He pointed the way to discipleship: we must bear our crosses daily by denying ourselves. It is not to deny ourselves of things but rather it is the denial of the self that is the key. Christ can only live within us – for us to exude him – if we truly die to ourselves. This is unlike any other idol or religion of this world.
As he prepared his disciples for what was to come, Jesus reminded them of the dire consequences of denying him instead of ourselves. That is not true Christianity.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, you are my Rock and my Redeemer. Only through you can I truly be saved, but through you I am transformed. Please help me lead the life that you have called me to, trusting in you, exuding you. Amen.
Note: Each day’s devotional is written by a different member of the GRC family.