Readings: Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 16:21-28
We participate in God’s reconciliation of the world by being reconciled, i.e. being in relationships and friendships ourselves, with the people around us. We rejoice with those who rejoice, and we weep with those who weep; we engage, love, and accept the other; we participate in God’s reconciliation of the world by being reconciled, being in relationships and friendships with the people around us, especially those we would not otherwise get to know. Because that is what Jesus is up to, reconciling the whole world.
Jesus’ cross was not taken up so he could suffer his way into a good relationship with God. It was not taken up to suffer his way to redemption and everlasting life. Jesus suffered only for the sake of the other. He took up the cross for you, and for the hurting ones around you.
Taking up your cross will never be to seek out suffering for your own gain. Taking up your cross, following Jesus, will always be a suffering--which is in love--for the sake of another.
It’ll never be suffering for a rule, a belief, or any other dogmatic or political agenda; not for righteousness’ sake. It is for a person. It comes from befriending another person and is weeping with those who weep. Jesus’ cross is suffering for the sake of another--for the sake of the world.
Taking up your cross and following Jesus is everlasting life. It is living in the kingdom of God, right now. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” His kingdom is where he and his love are. Following Jesus, you will never be alone. He is there. He gives you the Holy Spirit for strength and encouragement. He, himself, meets you in relationship with others. Jesus has come for relationship with you.
The great thing is, Jesus didn’t say, “if you want me to love you, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow” He said, if you want to be my follower, here’s what it looks like.
So the bottom line is this:
Jesus loves you, Jesus took up his cross for you.
Period. Full stop.
But there are some here today who who will see him coming into his kingdom. There are some who will, empowered by the Holy Spirit, follow him to enact and proclaim his kingdom now. There are some who will see the salvation of God, in bearing the cross for another.