{RE:} Reflect and Follow

Wednesday: Reflect & Follow

Let's continue reflecting this week with another passage that we've probably heard so many times that it risks losing its radical meaning.

Read: Matthew 16: 21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priest, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up your cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.”


Jesus was honest about the suffering that he would face in his life, yet the disciples didn't seem to fully grasp the reality of what Jesus was saying. It's easy to look back at his followers and be certain that we would respond differently. I know I find myself judging some of the Bible characters!

But then I start to reflect - I also have Jesus' words and examples of God's faithfulness, yet I still don't always "get it" or respond the way I should.  Sometimes I still read Scripture like it's someone else's story. Like it's a book that starts with "In a land far, far away..."

I think this helps us keep our distance from some of Jesus' most difficult commands and teachings. We can pretend "he didn't really mean that!"

Jesus' difficult word to the disciples above is just as relevant for us today. This statement wasn't only true for a select group. If we say that we follow Jesus, we need to "put our money where our mouth is" and actually follow. All of the Gospels have multiple statements like this one.

The bottom line is this: Following Jesus is costly.

Jesus says that anyone who wants to be his disciple should 1) Deny themselves 2) Take up their cross and 3) Follow him.

Denying yourself means to lay down your own ego and desire for the sake of the gospel (good news of reconciliation for all creation). Denying isn't about putting yourself down, but about finding yourself completely in Christ.

  • What does it practically look like to deny yourself today?
  • What is the hardest part about this for you?
  • Reflect on the way Jesus demonstrates this in the garden, asking God to "remove the cup" of suffering but submitting to his will

Taking up your cross, according to Jesus, is something we are supposed to do daily. It goes beyond simple inconvenience. Taking up the cross may be a natural result of denying yourself. Jesus would show them this first hand as he physically takes up the cross that would be his execution.

Whoever tries to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Jesus is telling us that avoiding the cross, working to save ourselves and stay safe, will never give us the life we were created for (and the life we long for). 

  • What does it mean to you to "take up your cross"?
  • How would you practice this in daily life?

Following Jesus means... well, following Jesus. For the disciples, that would mean facing the choice to follow him to his death. What does it mean for us to follow Jesus now when we cannot physically be in the same place as him? This has to mean choosing to take his teachings seriously. It will probably look like changing some of our beliefs, practices, habits, and the way we relate to the people around us.

  • What does it mean to you to "Follow Jesus"?
  • What does it look like in your daily life?
  • What difference has it made?

Some of the answers to these questions will vary, for sure. But what is so abundantly clear is that these 3 action verbs are calling (requiring?) us to do something differently if we want to be disciples. Let's take time to reflect on the fullness of this passage and all it means!


Grant me your grace, most merciful Jesus,
that your grace may be with me,
work in me, and continue with me to the end.

Grant me always
to want and desire whatever is most acceptable to you
and pleases you best.

Let your will be mine,
and let my will always follow yours
and agree perfectly with it.

Let there be between you and me but one will,
so that I may love what you love and abhor what you hate.
Grant that I may die to all things that are in the world
and, for your sake, love to be despised,
and not to be known by the world.
Grant that I may rest in you above all other things,
and that my heart may be at peace in you.

You are the true peace of the heart.
You are its only rest.
Outside of you,
all things are hard and uneasy.

In this peace, the same peace that is in you,
the one sovereign eternal Good,
I will sleep, and I will rest. Amen.

 - Thomas à Kempis, 15th Century


Teri - April 13th, 2022 at 4:34am

I love the gospels of Jesus and his hard truths about a faithful life. Like the people in the Bible, I cannot possibly die to all things in this world. I take up my cross daily in my overwhelming devotion to my daughter who cannot exist without my care, oversight, and advocacy for every aspect of her life. I left my fulfilling and financially lucrative career three times in her life to be all she needed me to be, especially after her dad left. I died to the hypocrisy of the church leadership when I was chastised for my position on a tenet that limited my advocacy for inclusion for her and her peers in the full congregation. Yet, I journey with beautifully imperfect brothers and sisters in Christ each who are striving to take up their unique crosses. We ARE the body of Christ, commissioned to take up his cross, together. We are never alone, on earth as it is in heaven. Peace be with you all.

Nick Tebordo - April 13th, 2022 at 4:51am

Denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily requires us to move beyond the world’s”if it feels good, do it” mentality. I want to abide in Christ! This is only possible in the Holy Spirit. Lord, what do You want me to do today? If we honestly mean it when we ask that question, life is not going to be easy, but it will be fulfilling in a way that pampering ourselves will never be. Today at communion, we will be reflecting on walking with Christ through this Holy Week-not as observers but as participants in His suffering. Only if we do this we will come to an Easter of unending Joy!

Melody - April 13th, 2022 at 6:18am

To be honest, my work that I love has been quite a burden over the past two years, and this year, when I thought everything would be back to normal, is not much different. The challenges are changing, but not getting easier. For me, it used to be fairly simple to set up a system of rules, policies, and practices with the students at the start of the year, then just follow them.

But this year, even though we're mostly back in the classroom, the long-term educational and socio -emotional effects of the pandemic make such a difference for a big percentage of the students. It's exhausting on a daily basis.

But--my girl who never talked us starting to talk a little, my guy who was hospitalized most of the fall semester with mental illness is in class almost every day, and at least one more student has decided he needs to be a teacher (which is basically my goal in life--creating great teachers 😃).

Aaaand there are three guys I haven't seen since April 5. So. I'll take it up one more day!

Susan Blais - April 13th, 2022 at 6:36am

What a wonderful study this morning. It really made me think about what it meant to “ deny myself, take up my cross, and follow him“. In looking at my life, I can see the places where Jesus has asked me to do this not that I always did what he was asking, but I can see that when I did what he was asking, there was a definite shift in my direction. But after reading this study today, I am more aware of what he is calling me to do on a daily basis, and to look to the future as opportunities to follow more closely and stay in the footsteps that he has laid out for me. Thank you, dear Lord, for caring enough for me to give me more opportunities to listen, trust and obey.




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