Our scripture this week is Matthew 16:21-28.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Jesus tells His followers plainly what will be required of them – “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (v. 24). He doesn’t promise glory or riches or an easy time. He says we must put what God wants of us above what we want for ourselves.
Denying ourselves is a difficult thing for us. Jesus doesn’t say “be miserable” but instead asks us to determine what makes us truly happy. Momentary pleasure may distract us from the path on which He leads us and we may regret the missteps we made.
The joy of of the Lord is that even when we fall, we can be forgiven and restored. In repentance we can go back to Jesus’ side and continue the work He has for us. Our connection to Him can never be broken and He is always waiting patiently for us to return.
Loving Lord, we are weak and often stray from Your love and care. Help us to see that Your way is best for us, even when it is difficult. Amen.