287. Walking in the Word, Jesus Foretells of the Cross – His and Yours
Following Jesus can be difficult. Even heartbreaking. In one sitting, the disciples learned of Jesus’ upcoming death and that to follow Him, they, too, must endure a cross. What does carrying our cross entail? And how can such a task lead to glory? Today we will study Matthew 16:21-28, Mark 8:31-9:1, and Luke 9:22-27.
Welcome to Walking in the Word, the biblical teaching arm of the Women World Leaders’ podcast. My name is Julie Jenkins, and we are so thrilled that you have joined us!
If you are new to the podcast, we have three offerings for you each week. On Mondays, founder Kimberly Hobbs hosts Empowering Lives with Purpose: a 30-minute interview with a different woman of faith who shares her God story in hopes of giving you courage and excitement to walk out the purpose that God has ordained for you. On Fridays, our team of leaders hosts Celebrating God’s Grace. This is a time of joy, reflection, and teaching – focusing on God’s continuous blessings that He pours out on our lives. And today, Wednesdays, we take time to open the Bible and walk through scripture, verse by verse, asking God to speak His truth with us. We are currently studying the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
I sure hope you were able to join us last week for our in-person event titled Renew! We had such a great time. There was a tropical storm dropping buckets of rain here in South Florida on the day of the event, but God provided, as He always does – and together, we enjoyed awesome worship, fellowship, teaching, and a whole lot of laughs and in-person hugs! If you missed it, stay tuned! We will be posting segments on YouTube and uploading them as episodes to this podcast. You can also visit our Facebook page, Women World Leaders, where you can watch what was the live feed! And we will be planning our next event soon, so go to our website, womenworldleaders.com, and be sure to connect with us so you don’t miss out!
Before we jump into our study, let’s go to the Lord in prayer…
Dear Most Holy God – you are SO good. And we love you SO much. God, thank you for giving us your Word, so that we can open it to find courage when we are scared, strength when we are tired, encouragement when we are feeling low, and joy and peace every single day. Most importantly, thank you that we find YOU in the pages and that, as we read, you speak to each of us so clearly, revealing yourself in the most mysterious and magnificent ways. Father, I ask you to be with me as I speak, and be with each listener. Allow your Word to fall afresh on each of us. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
We have been following Jesus and His disciples in recent months. If you have been with us, you have likely noticed Jesus’ gentle way of teaching His disciples, one nugget at a time – never giving them more than they are ready to handle. Today, we reach a turning point. The truth that Jesus proclaims today is a bit tough to comprehend and lays out the rocky journey that was ahead. But because of His previous teachings, miracles, and gentle leading, and the disciples own recognition of Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus now trusts that his disciples and followers are ready to face two very difficult truths: following Jesus involves recognizing HIS submission to death and releasing our OWN hold on life as we know it.
Today’s scripture lesson comes from Matthew 16:21-28, Mark 8:31-9:1, and Luke 9:22-27. Allow me to begin reading from the New Living Translation. Mark 8:31…
31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man[a] must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead.
Jesus called Himself the Son of Man – a name that came from the prophet Daniel’s description of the heavenly figure who holds all power and authority in the end times. Peter had rightly stated that Jesus was the Messiah the Jews had been waiting for. And Jesus is confirming that He is God, born as a son of man, come to earth to live among humanity. And now He reveals the real reason for His birth here on earth – a shocking revelation of what was to come. Their beloved Messiah, Rabbi, and friend was destined to suffer, be rejected, and be killed.
It seems the disciples stopped listening at the word “killed,” unable to comprehend the ending – that Jesus would rise from the dead. It was too much information. Matthew begins this section by saying that Jesus explained these things “from then on” – this was not an easy pill to swallow and would take time to digest.
I think we can all relate on some level. Hearing horrifying news can put us in a state of shock and unbelief, causing us to question if we really heard what we thought we heard, and causing us to miss some of the facts.
Peter had heard the disturbing news, and his own reaction was unthinkable insubordination as he took Jesus, his respected Rabbi, aside and reprimanded Him, saying, in Matthew 16:22…“Heaven forbid, Lord,… This will never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
Satan had come against Jesus at the beginning of His ministry by offering Jesus the whole world for only the cost of bowing to evil, attempting to keep Him from fulfilling His mission on earth. But Jesus knew that the rightful cost for the world was His own life. Jesus knew that He must follow His Father’s will, which was to live a perfect, sinless life, and then freely offer that perfect life in payment for the sins of all of humanity. By His death and resurrection, Jesus would overcome death once for all, allowing a divine restoration between God and sinful man. THIS was why Jesus came to earth. THIS was His mission.
Peter, although out of pure love, was trying to keep Jesus from completing His mission as well. He simply didn’t want Jesus to suffer.
As humans – we crave the easy way. We look for loopholes. We want to skip the vegetables and get to the dessert! But our God is a God of order. His way is perfect, and there are no shortcuts. Jesus knew that only His own atrocious death could overcome our egregious sin. And He would not let the devil or Peter keep Him from enduring this painful process that would lead to glory beyond our imaginations.
Having spoken to the disciples and reprimanded Peter for his words, Jesus was now ready to unveil this hard lesson to His other followers.
34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, (Jesus) said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.
Today, we bat the phrase “take up your cross” around freely, without recognizing the true weight of its meaning.
The people of Jesus’ day were acutely aware of what the cross was. Carrying your cross meant being sentenced to death – it meant being beaten, scorned, humiliated, tortured, and killed. It was the worst death imaginable. Jesus announced that He was headed that way – and then He announced that His followers must, well, follow.
God has a calling for you. And Christian, it will not always be easy. That’s why Jesus says we must take up our cross.
If you are a parent – you know the pain of giving up yourself for another. It begins with a woman literally sharing her body, nutrients, and energy with a growing fetus. And it continues in the pain of childbirth. Then, the newborn is entirely dependent on others for his survival. And if you are a parent of teens, you know what it is like to pour out yourself, even while being unappreciated and disappointed…wondering if all the work is worth it.
If you are Christian, you are called to give yourself for others in the kingdom of God. That is your cross. To use your giftings for the good of others, that they might grow and become who God called them to be. It’s a responsibility that, though rewarding, is not always easy.
Can you walk away from your cross? Can you walk away from caring for your children and caring for others in the world and in your community? Yes. It is your choice to pick up and carry your cross, or to let others carry the load.
But if you do walk away from the work God has entrusted to you – you will lose out on a spectacular happening that God is orchestrating and is allowing you to be part of! And what you will gain will be fleeting, insubstantial, and unimportant.
35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.
Jesus gave up His life, He willingly carried His cross, so that we can live a resurrected, glorious life with God. All we have to do is accept that gift.
But Jesus goes a step further and invites us to join Him on this earth – to willingly carry our own cross. To give up what we THINK the world has to offer us – to let go of the glitz and glamour and control that Satan offers, and intentionally carry the responsibility that God has given each of us, doing our part to guide OTHERS to salvation.
36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?[c] 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Luke tells us that carrying our cross is a daily responsibility. When we truly recognize who Jesus is, we will long to please Him daily! We will consider it our honor and privilege to serve the mighty King.
I once had the opportunity to set up a banquet for a former president of the United States. I went early and worked outside in my tennis shoes and jeans, and then I went home and put on my fanciest clothes to go back and to do my part to make sure the evening went smoothly. It was a lot of work – but what a joy and honor that I was chosen to serve at the pleasure of the president!
You are called to serve at the pleasure of our Lord and Savior. And He has given you specific gifts and talents to do just what He has prepared for you!
How has God gifted you? What is He counting on you to do?
If you are a parent of young children, your call is obvious. Love those children! Protect them, guide them, lead them, provide for them, and then…yes…let them go when the time is right. Because that is your job, too.
Are you called to serve in your church? Our church leaders cannot take care of the whole flock themselves! We are all given the privilege of helping take care of the whole.
Are you called into missions or ministry? That is not an easy lifestyle, but as you give up the lifestyle the world tells you is best, God will show you an even better one.
In a family, everyone has a position. In the family of God, we all have a call to serve each other. It takes intentionality and perseverance to carry our cross, but don’t let the devil rob you of its glory!
9 Jesus went on to say, “I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power!”
What a great word that is! It is debated what Jesus meant exactly by this. Most theologians believe that it points to the transfiguration or Pentecost, when the glory of the Lord was on display. But we can be assured that when we give our lives to Christ, recognizing HIS submission to death and releasing our OWN hold on life as we know it, choosing to carry our cross for the good of God’s people, we, too, will see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power!
Dear Most Holy God! Jesus, we turn the corner with you as we look toward the cross. We have relished in your teaching and the miracles you have shown us in your Word, and we mourn with the disciples as we think of the pain you endured. Thank you doesn’t seem enough for all you have done, yet it is all you require. Jesus, we recognize that although our gift of salvation is free, you do long for us to take up the cross – to use the gifting that you have given us to shout your name on this earth as we care for others. We praise you for the opportunity to work with and for you, and we humbly submit our lives in service to you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.