He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 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. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?” (Mark 8:34-37)
Jesus calls me to “take up my cross.” This fills me with dismay and alarm. I imagine a dirty, heavy weight full of splinters, covered with sweat and blood. My natural instinct it to recoil in disgust. This is not doing the easy thing, the comfortable thing. What is it in our lives that we feel loathe to do? I know Jesus is calling on me, right now, to accept those I have trouble accepting, to love the very ones I find unlovable and to show them God’s grace. That is a tough challenge.
But do not be disheartened! Jesus also promises, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:25-30).We are not going it alone.
First Jesus bids us to rest if we are tired. My tendency is always to clench my teeth and “power through,” but I don’t think we will accomplish much in kingdom building that way.
Then Jesus promises to go by our side when we are working. What a blessed promise that is! It is a little harder for us to relate to the image of a yoke than it probably was for people who listened to Jesus. But we have all seen images of the oxen yoked together, pulling a plow to till land or pulling a wagon. What could be better than to be yoked together with Jesus, matching his steps and strength to ours? He has promised to teach us what we need to know. He promises his yoke is comfortable, not full of dirt and splinters. He promises that the burden is light, not onerous. I can do anything if Christ is giving me the strength. Abandon your life to the call of Jesus, and your life will fill with praise and gratitude.
Dear Creator God, you have created us all. You love us all. Help me to show love to all your children, even those I find difficult to love. Jesus, thank you for promising to work with me. Show me the way by your example. Holy Spirit, guide all my thoughts and actions so that I may bless all those whom I contact with your forgiving grace.