As I read through the Bible, I am confronted with tension between the scripture. On one hand I read the comforting verse, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14) However, at another time Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) As I look at those two verses spoken by our Savior, I am sensing some friction.
In looking at different Christian “denominations”, it’s easy to see which one of those verses they seem to embrace. In our infinitely small minds, it seems like we spend too much time trying to explain away the verses that don’t coincide with our beliefs.
Well, that is just a small rabbit trail away from what I would really like to focus on. Let’s take another look at Matthew 16:24: Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
As I thought about what this verse means to me, I pictured one hand chained to the cross. Imagine it: I saw a big ole cross lying on the ground in the middle of a large trashy field! I am chained to the cross but have about 15 feet of room to wander about. However, my little area is really neat and clean or at least as far as I can reach…it is spotless and quite the object of envy! It kind of reminds me of what Americanized Christianity looks like. There I am in this big messy world diligently taking care of what I can reach.
Then I imagined the cross hoisted onto my back and me struggling to follow after Christ. It wouldn’t be easy dragging a giant heavy cross around! But after I started moving it would get perhaps a bit easier as long as I kept my mind on my task. So what is Christ asking us to do?
What exactly is meant by “take up his cross and follow me”? Could our cross actually be the fear we might be living with, the addiction that has us in its grip, the chronic pain that is in our body, the emotional hurt we still hang on to, or the bitterness we kept hidden away, the list goes on and on. It would be extremely hard to follow after Christ with that kind of baggage. But that is precisely what has been asked of us. What kind of chains are holding you back? He is asking us to get moving and follow Him regardless of what is hanging onto us. We need to do more than keep house and appear to look great!
As followers of Christ, we are asked to move and actually follow him. We have no excuses, at least none that I have found in the Bible. So now back to the first verse that I spoke of in John 14:14; “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Read the verses previous to 14, Christ is talking to people who are already following after Him and as we ask our intent is to glorify God. Back on my rabbit trail…let’s not pull out verses in an attempt to try to justify a pain-free religion.
Let’s hoist the cross on our backs and move out of our comfort zones. We have been called to follow our Savior even if in the process it shows just how weak we actually are.