Text – Mark 8:31-38:
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34 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. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,[a] will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words[b] in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Lent is a good time to think about repentance and setting one’s life on a better course. But it is also a time to think about cost. Almost like we think about the cost of a car or a house or of the engagement ring we prefer. In the case of our text, the cost relates to whether or not we are willing to pay the costs of being a disciple of Jesus.
Jesus always was very honest with his disciples about this. To wanna be disciples he said, “foxes have places to live and birds have nests, but I don’t have a place to put my head. Are you sure you want to follow me?” [Rough restating of what the Bible says in Matthew 8:20.] And later, as a large crowd of people were following Jesus around, he said to them something like “you can’t be my disciples if you put your family first, above me. If you want to follow me, count the cost like a general would count the cost of going to war.” [Luke 14:28]
And then Jesus delivered the great paradox of being his disciple. Following Jesus means dying to selfish interests. Jesus called it “taking up a cross.” This sounds like submitting to defeat. Giving up. Not being successful. But Jesus said that the cross is the way to life and truly gaining one’s self. This contradicts every Wall Street success book we’ve ever read.
Following Jesus is the decision to trust him above all the aphorisms, get rich quick schemes, and successful investing books. It is to understand that Jesus knows the true, trustworthy, and enlightened way to life. All other ways ultimately lead to death. Remember this at Lent.
Dear Father, it is so tempting to listen to the success gurus of our day and the Health and Wealth preachers touting the benefits of sending your money to them. It is so tempting to listen to the voice in our heads rather than to you. It is so tempting to believe that the cost of following you is too great. This Lent, we ask for your help in coming to terms with these voice and to realize that the Cross is the only way to life. In Jesus’ name we pray this. Amen.