In the cross we find power. But not worldly power we might expect – instead we find the power of true healing and humility of spirit. And the power of opportunity to make more loving choices.
- There are two significant events directly preceding this week’s Scripture reading
- The Transfiguration – Peter, James and John are brought by Jesus to the top of a very high mountain and he was transformed in front of them. Jesus’ clothes become brighter than if they had been bleached white while Elijah and Moses appear and talk with Jesus. The disciples are understandably taken aback, speechless, and terrified. The Transfiguration was a tremendous display of divine glory and power.
- Next they descend the mountain and find a crowd around the other disciples. A voice cries out to Jesus asking for his son to be healed.
- Jesus’ response is interesting – he chastised the disciples, the crowd, and even the father. According to Jesus, they failed the boy and had the power to heal the entire time. In another display of his own power, Jesus heals the boy.
- What comes next is entirely unexpected – Jesus predicts his own death for the second time. Surely the Messiah has the power to prevent his own death. But Jesus chooses a different way.
- Likewise, when the disciples enter a house, they are arguing about who is the most powerful. Jesus responds, “Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and the servant of all.” Humility, sacrifice, and love are the true powers symbolized by the cross.
John Wesley often spoke about “bearing our own crosses.”
- The idea of bearing our own crosses comes directly from Jesus: Matthew 10:38-39: “Those who don’t pick up their crosses and follow me aren’t worthy of me. Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them.”
- John Wesley calls crosses, “opportunities of embracing God’s will at the expense of our own.” And, ”Crosses are so frequent, that whoever takes advantage of them, will soon be a great gainer. Great crosses are occasions of great improvement: and the little ones, which come daily, and even hourly, make up in number what they can’t in weight.”
- A word of caution – sometimes it becomes a metaphor for self-pitying pride or superficial inconveniences. Care is necessary in considering the crosses Jesus is asking us to pick up and carry.
- Wesley interpreted bearing one’s cross as “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender. And after each time Jesus commanded cross bearing, he claims that the reward is worth it! (Luke 9:24-25).
- Continuing in the Scriptural narrative, the disciples ask to bear their own crosses.
John says to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone throwing demons out in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.” No wonder Jesus was frustrated! After everything he just told them, the disciples are still stuck on themselves.
- Jesus responds, “Do not stop him….Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:39-40). The cross John must bear is setting aside pride and arrogance for the sake of Jesus’ Kingdom on earth.
- But the disciples are human after all. Our human instinct and first response seems to be towards self-promotion and self -preservation. And while these can be good and important things, Jesus asks us to choose differently at the same time.
Takeaway and challenge:
There comes a point in life when we are faced with a choice— the comforts of this life or Jesus. The cross represents the power of choice, opportunity, and responsible grace.
- Are you willing to follow Jesus at the expense of personal preferences?
- Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation?
- Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means loss of reputation or self-promotion?
- Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means changing jobs or careers?
- Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life?
You probably have a cross somewhere – in your home, a hand cross, prayer beads, or jewelry. Our challenge is to look at it with fresh eyes. What does it mean for you today? In the cross we find power. But not the worldly power we might expect – instead we find the power of true healing, humility of spirit, and opportunity to make more loving choices. Jesus asks us to choose a different way – love for the sake of others. And just as Jesus chose us, we are asked to choose Jesus everyday. In this way, may you find new life today, tomorrow, and forever more.