Matthew 16:13-28; Matthew 17; Matthew 18:1-35; Mark 8:27-38; Mark 9:1-50; Luke 9:18-50; Luke 17:1-10
Matthew 16:24-27 / Mark 8:34-38 / Luke 9:23-26 – I have often heard this passage used to teach that we, as disciples, ought to do something. Pick up your cross meant to evangelize or to submit or sacrifice or something. Jesus said we had to, after all. It has often troubled me because Jesus doesn’t elaborate on what the cross is that we are to take up. I’ve spent some time in mental gymnastics trying to determine what it was, this cross of mine. To Jesus the cross was many things:
- His ultimate purpose or mission, to go to the cross.
- A burden to bear.
- A submission to the Father’s will
I’ve begun to realize, however, that it is not any one thing. We cannot point to this passage and say, “See, Jesus want’s you too __________. (evangelize, sacrifice, submit to a leader, etc.)” It is that last item, submission to God’s will over my own desires, that is the theme of this passage. If we are to be free, to be saved, to be like Jesus and follow Him, we must do as He did, and submit to the Father. Though, as for Jesus in the garden, all of our will longs for something else, we must be determined to do Gods will. That will be a little different for each of us, but we will all discover it within the Bible. It is there we see God revealed, if we are willing to open our eyes and push aside our preconceived notions of what God is. to often we feel as though we have God all figured out, we know what’s expected and what he wants. So we approach the Bible and learning about Him far too casually, knowing what we will find. It is then that we can miss God, yet find what we expect. That is not self denial or submission to God but rather conforming God to our notions of Him. It is all too easy to do and it happens all around us, every day. I have seen it in others for years, and in myself as I looked back to my pre-salvation days. But in recent years I have realized that I too have put on my blinders. As a result, I haven’t seen God, only my ready made image of Him. God is so big, so amazing, so vast, there is no way we will ever have any chance of having Him figured out. I scares me how easily I can stop seeking to see God and become satisfied with the part of Him I’ve already seen. Scary how easily I get pridefull and lazy, thinking there’s nothing more for me to learn, I’ve got it nailed. But I don’t and never will. I pray that God will lead me, ever reminding me of His vastness and my small, finite nature and that in that I may always be searching for Him. In the searching, I will find Him, over and over again.
Mark 9:14-29 – I’ve always loved the comic image that this story creates. A man brings his son to Jesus’ disciples because an evil spirit that throws him into seizures. While he’s talking to Jesus, the boy is throw to the ground, rolling around and foaming at the mouth. When this happens (and those around are gasping and anxious), Jesus turns to the man and asks (calmly, in my mind) :How long has he been like this?” Then Jesus and the man have a discussion about the boy’s condition and the man’s faith, presumably while the boy continues to flail around in the dirt. It’s only when Jesus notices the gathering crowd that He heals the boy. Monty Python couldn’t have written it better.
Luke 9:48 – Lord, help this be my attitude. Help me not to need recognition, but to accept that I am only doing my duty, that which is expected of a disciple of Christ. Nothing noteworthy.
Matthew 18:10 – I love this verse. Oh, how God cares for our little ones that their angels always see His face. He watches over them personally, He does not delegate that job.
Matthew 18:21-35 / Luke 17:3-4 – Forgiveness and grace is to be our standard, not justice and punishment.