Read His Words Before Ours!
It’s been nearly a week since Jesus taught us in detail about the cost of following Him, but the words still roll in my head, keeping me awake at night and popping up unbidden as we move through crowds ministering to them.
“Take up your cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34)
That’s all I can think about.
A cross signifies one thing, cruel death.
There is no way to escape torture when a cross is involved.
Cross victims press against nail-pierced feet to slide their raw back upwards against shredded wood attempting to catch a breath as their wrists are nailed on either side, outstretched in agony. Eventually, exhaustion overtakes the condemned man and their futile exercise for oxygen is over, resulting in suffocation. It’s cruel, but it is the price to pay for those who dare break Roman law. I’ve seen it before, the crucifixion parade outside the city as thieves and murderers are led away for gruesome justice. It’s bloody and agonizing, the screams of men as naked flesh is grotesquely pierced, but it is effective in making its point: don’t run against Rome.
I shook my head again, attempting to clear the horrific scenes playing out in my mind. I just don’t understand! Why did Jesus tie these two ideas together, following Him and taking up a cross. It makes no sense! To follow, I must be alive. So, why must I also die? And not simply die, but die a cruel death.
Why does following Him cost so much?!
The turmoil inside me continues churning, never lessening, and I grab a fistful of olive branches in my frustration as I take one more step forward up the narrow, well-worn path on the side of Mount Tabor.
“Hey! Come on, Peter!” James’ indignant voice complains behind me as the olive branch swipes his face. “What’s wrong with you lately, man?”
I glance back, ruefully apologizing for the errant branch thrashing. Does James understand? I lift my eyes forward to catch John following closely to Jesus on the path ahead; the two are conversing, and then I hear John’s laughter ripple out. I grin in spite of my war inside, as John’s laughter invites everyone into its embrace. I can’t stop myself from wondering, does John understand? I furrow my brow and increase my pace, ignoring James’ question. Chest heaving and brow sweating, I catch up to John and Jesus at Tabor’s summit. A quip about my meaty muscles weighing me down compared to John’s lean, young frame is on my lips, but it dies instantly as I follow John’s aghast gaze.
Jesus! Jesus! He’s…
Suddenly, the brilliance of light envelopes everything in sight. The radiance is utterly beyond description as Jesus’ face shines like He swallowed the sun, His ordinary garments now aglow with uncanny light. James gasps and I follow his finger, seeing the unbelievable!
Moses and Elijah are here as well! I may not have everything figured out, but as Moses representing Law and Elijah representing Prophets stand here with Jesus, it’s all becoming clear! They are all the same! Law, Prophet, and Jesus!
Bursting with my revelation, I run unhindered towards the three men bathed in light. “Jesus! Jesus!” I shout. “Lord! It’s so good for us to be here! I’ve got it figured out! We will build three tents for you all and honor you all equally!” (Matthew 17:3-4, paraphrase)
Instantly, a thick, heavy cloud overshadows all of us, striking deep fear into our hearts. Moses and Elijah vanish. Terror-stricken, James, John, and myself are rendered immovable and speechless as a voice boomed, “This is my Son, the Chosen One, listen to Him.” (Luke 9:35)
Cowering and mute, the three of us fall face down in the heart-stopping glory of Yahweh’s voice. Then, as suddenly as it appeared, the cloud of glory vanished, replaced by natural Judean sunlight that makes me sweat again. Stuttering as I examine the common dirt clinging to Jesus’ feet and toenails before me, I realize I haven’t been breathing and gulp in air as Jesus reaches down to touch my shoulder. His voice, astounding in its common, ordinary sound, tenderly speaks, “Get up; don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 17:7)
With lightning-fast clarity, Jesus’ words prompt a memory of the very first time I followed Him. He had looked at me then too, my nets bursting with an enormous catch of fish flopping everywhere. Crowds had gathered and men were agape at the plunder I’d caught, but Jesus had His eyes fixed on mine, “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will be catching people.” (Luke 5:10)
And so my following began.
Don’t be afraid.
Though it would cost me everything, even my very life and all the pleasures and materials I had once loved, I was to crucify those daily, torturously even, and be left in the wake of the life of Yahweh so I could follow Him freely, without any hindrance.
He knew of my internal battle, and He was making me new in the midst of it.
He was showing me Who He was, as God of all.
For Him, no, in Him, I will crucify my old self, and live to follow Him daily in the newness of abundant life. Jesus, the Great I Am, was worth it.
He is the Beloved Son, the Only One worthy of my life.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!