Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:25
As Jesus spoke these words to his disciples, how deeply they must have resounded in his own heart. For as they poured forth from his lips, a portrait of his own life came alive, a picture of his own complete sacrifice. Although these words were aimed as his disciples, they were words that were written all over his life story. From the moment his feet touched this earth, Jesus’ purpose would not be to save his life, but to lose it. Every single day of his ministry, he embraced the kind of life that he commanded of his followers, a life based entirely upon denying himself and taking up his cross so that others may find true life.
May we never forget that through the death of Jesus, we have life. Through his willingness to lose his life, we are guaranteed ours eternally. How incredible that the greatest triumph of the world came at the very moment on the cross when defeat seemed certain! However, God turns the ways of the world upside down, and at the moment Jesus Christ gave up his earthly life, he “disarmed the powers and authorities” that were set against him and “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). How amazing that in giving up so much, so much was gained! Such extraordinary victory, and it all started with one man’s willingness to lose his life.
As a followers of Christ, are we willing to lose ours? Are we willing to die to ourselves and our desires so that we may find true life in him and also lead others to this great victory? The world will tell us that this doesn’t make sense, that true success comes from looking out for ourselves and building up empires of our own. But Jesus’ life and death are evidence that the opposite is true. Jesus did not cling tightly to the things of this world or spend his time working for money, prestige, and other things that were sure to fade away. He walked this earth determined to make an eternal impact on those around him and the generations to come. And when it came time for his death, although heavily burdened, he stood true to his life purpose: to do the will of his Father, not his own.
What great strength it takes to let go of our own will and embrace that of another. However, when the one we submit to is the most powerful being in the universe, we can be assured that he will grant us that strength through his own power. And from the moment we fully commit ourselves to Christ and pledge to lose all for his sake, we will surely find the life we have always been searching for–not a life of ease, for our cross will not always be easy to carry–but a life that glorifies him in all we do. And perhaps like Christ, we will be able to walk upon this earth with our eyes set on eternity, reflecting his nature to an endless sea of souls that are still seeking true life. Lord, let it be!
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 (ESV)
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15