“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.” (Mark 8:34, NRSV)
Have you ever found yourself in one of those conversations with a youngster where every response to your attempt to offer understanding is met with “Why!”? On my father’s better days he would ultimately say something like, “I know you cannot understand this now, but someday you will. Please trust that I am telling you the truth in the meantime.” On the days when his patience was running a little thinner I would hear, “Because I said so!” I have come to better understand what it was like to be him … with me.
I think this helps me also better understand what it must have been like for Jesus with the disciples. Jesus had foundational truths of paramount importance to pass on to the disciples, but they struggled to really grasp what Jesus was saying because of their limited worldly perspective. Selfless service, God’s unconditional love, and especially the Cross, all seemed to contradict everything the world had taught them.
But even more important to Jesus than their understanding, was their faith. Jesus’ very first call to each one of the disciples was not “understand,” but rather, “Follow me.” And from our study of Scripture as contained in the Gospels, we can see that as much as the disciples always seemed to struggle with understanding Jesus, they also always continued to follow him. Their faith in Jesus, shaky as it was sometimes, gave them the strength and courage to believe and agree to follow even when they could not yet understand.
This Lent, as we retrace the steps of Jesus as he journeyed from Galilee to Jerusalem, and then to the Cross, Jesus seeks to lovingly pass on to us foundational truths of paramount importance that have eternal significance. Jesus knows that we often struggle to understand, but he calls us to first agree to “follow him” in faith, believing that understanding will follow. We may not always understand the path that Jesus lays before us, but we can know with complete confidence that it springs from divine love and leads to true peace and happiness for all who follow it.
May your faith answer “Yes!” when Jesus calls out, “Follow me.”
Peace and blessings … Pastor Bob