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Take Up Your What? – A Reflection on Mark 8:31-38 by Rick Morley

March 10, 2012

“‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’” (Mark 8:34).

Jesus tells the people standing around hearing him that they have to “take up their cross.” These words would have had to sting and confuse the ears of his listeners. Take up our cross? A cross of crucifixion? The instrument of death for a slave?

His point: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” When you follow Jesus it means putting your own self-survival in the backseat. The first act of following Jesus is totally re-ordering your priorities and principles to the way of the Kingdom. It’s no longer about saving your life. Following Jesus means that your priority is to lose your life.

And, what better way to talk about that than the cross. It’s an instrument where not only are you condemned to a tortuous death, but you’re also succumbing to a dishonourable death. A slave’s death. A death that even the Hebrew Bible calls “accursed.” On the cross you don’t just lose your life, you lose everything. Life. Honour. Pride. But, Jesus says that in such a loss everything is, in fact, gained.

And, just in case Jesus’ first audience didn’t get it, Jesus himself follows this up with showing them how it’s done. How to lose. And how to triumph. For God and God’s Kingdom.

(The Reverend Rick Morley is the rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. This reflection by the Reverend Morley was edited to fit our March 4 Bulletin cover. For the complete reflection, please go to his blog, “A Garden Path”: http://www.rickmorley.com/archives/1453.)

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