Often the word ministry invokes images of various types of service or volunteer work. Giving time to children or youth ministry, donating to the Food Pantry, or spending a week of vacation on a summer missions trip, or in addition a person who engages in some type of full time ministry such as a pastor or worship leader. While each of these afore mentioned concepts are deeply vital to the advancement of the love of Jesus to a broken and hurting world, I want to examine something more intrinsic, something more inward. I want to explore a context of the word ministry that is far more intimate, the ministry of the heart. The unspoken choices and dialogue between a person and God that only the eyes of the heart are privy to. These unspoken dialogues of our heart ultimately lead to outward action. I want to zoom in on the moment in which we make a choice to follow God or not and discover why it is so essential to enduring faith to constantly choose the way of the Cross.
In a rather radical statement, Jesus implores His disciples, both then and today, that if we are to follow Him, we must also take up our cross daily. After reflecting on the full extent of this passage, I believe we will come to see that authentic Christianityand the peace, joy, and blessing of the Lord which encompasses such a faithis molded, birthed, rooted, and created, in the constant and continual yielding of our hearts to the Way of the Cross.
a) Who Do You Say I Am? (9:18-20)
Jesus had withdrawn to the town of Bethsaida (Lk 9:10), yet the crowds had learned of His location and sought Him out (v11). After teaching on the kingdom of God and healing those who were sick, Jesus performed a breath taking miracle in feeding the crowd of over 5,000 men from a mere two fish and five loaves of bread (v12-17). Now in light of this incredible event, Jesus questions the disciples concerning His true identity. He first addresses what the common culture would say about Him, and digs even deeper into the understanding of the disciples when He directly ask how they would define Him. In discovering what it means to walk the way of the cross, we must first answer Jesus when He knocks at the door of our heart saying, Who do you say I am? Our answer dictates entirely how we will walk or not walk in relationship with Him.
b) The Son of Man must suffer and die (9:21-22)
Jesus has exposed the disciples limited view of who He is when they label Him Messiah (see Mt 16:13-23; Mk 8:27-38 for Peters clear misunderstanding of Jesus purpose). He powerfully challenges their viewpoint and shocks their current cultural understanding of His purpose. He draws imagery from Isaiah 53s suffering servant (particularly v3) in describing the fate He will soon endure. Jesus hears the disciples understanding of the situation, and immediately expands their limited vision. He is teaching, guiding and Fathering them. Once we have surrendered our hearts to the Great Shepherd and Overseer of our souls (1Pe 2:25), then we have the incredible experience of learning to walk intimately with Him and ultimately our hearts see that His ways are in fact above ours (Isa 55:8-9), and His voice, His word, and His leadership transcends our own. However, in truly surrendering ourselves we experience authentic freedom and a way of life beyond our greatest hopes.
c) The Way of the Cross (9: 23-25)
In this moment Jesus reveals one of the powerful aspects of walking the way of the Cross. Those who seek to gain their life will lose it, but those who give up their life will truly find it. A common truth is extracted from both John 15:9-11 and Psalm 119:30-35. A heart that follows willingly the commands of the Lord experiences a freedom that elevates beyond traditional, rational thought. How can a command offer freedom, is it not the exact opposite? To follow orders is to obey and in essence exist in a place that is opposite of traditional self-directed freedom. Yet, this is precisely where Jesus calls those who would seek to follow after Him. In choosing His way, to take up our cross, to walk the way of the cross, we make way in our hearts for His presence, His word, and His leadership to color the way in which we see the world. When this happens, we begin to encounter the life altering moments of His grace, truth, joy, love, forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation, comfort, and the list goes on. When His voice echoes supreme in our unspoken dialogues of the heart, we begin to truly value choosing the way of the cross and the enduring faith in produces.
1) At one point, if you have, did you answer the question Jesus asks when He says, Who do you say I am? Can you tell us about it?
2) Are you facing a moment where you are having to choose the way of the cross in the face of difficulty?