Mark 8:31–38 (NLT)
Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.
Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Jesus predicts his death and his mode of death. Also, his resurrection. This is all couched in terms of necessity. In other words, Jesus is doing what he means to do.
This is followed by one of the clearest calls to discipleship you will ever see. “Give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” Walk the way I am walking. Live the way I am living. Move toward death.
These are hard words for our soft generation.
We are often taught, “Admit you are a sinner. Say this little prayer. You are now a Christian. You are saved from hell. It would be good if you continued coming to church, but whatever. Here’s a class about how to handle your money. And another about how to be a good parent.” Then we move on to the next victim.
That doesn’t sound much like the mode of discipleship described by Jesus. There’s no cross in it, so it can’t be right. Jesus says his followers much truly follow him. With a cross.
I have a feeling that if we followed Jesus’s plan of discipleship the church would thrive more than it does on the model we are using. Rather than big, empty shells we would be small, vital cells — living for Jesus, living like Jesus. Passing it on.