If you want to follow…

… In our drama this morning we heard Jesus saying several things….

First, Jesus said that anyone who wants to be his disciple must do what?  ((Follow him?))

But what does it mean to follow Jesus?   Have a chat with your neighbour, make sure children are included, what do you think it means to follow Jesus?

((To trust and believe in him. Imitate him with our words and actions, which we learn to do by knowing God’s Word.))

So, to help us think about this a little more, we’re going to listen to something else that Jesus said…. 

Mark 8: 34-37

As we’ve been reading Paula Gooder’s Let Me Go There this lent period we have seen that following Jesus is costly. 

Following Jesus requires that we are prepared to follow where he went – to go into the unhospitable wilderness; to face testing and trials; to be challenged on our identity and calling; to leave behind the familiar and comfortable, and place following above everything else. 

Just in case we’re still unsure this passage acts a final sledgehammer of assurance, to take up our cross, just like he did.

Jesus says, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.  3 things, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.

The first two imperatives, denying and taking up, are closely linked. 

Our modern English Bibles don’t pick it up very well, but in the original, as Jesus said them, these imperatives were in the aorist tense. 

Now the aorist tense implies a single action, a decisive/definite action to turn our backs on ourselves and to pick up our cross.   

Then, the third imperative….follow me, is in the present tense, which implies an on-going action….

A daily choice, a daily decision, a daily commitment in the on-going activity of following Jesus. 

And Jesus goes on to explain more, in what seems like a bit of a riddle. 

It’s a complicated riddle….which Paula very helpfully paraphrases it this way: 

If you want to be people who follow me, then deny your innate human nature:

that which seeks self-preservation and self-promotion above all else. 

Those whose driving desire is to protect their life – with all its rights and privileges-

will end up losing everything;

but those who sit lightly to survival – so lightly, in fact,

that sometimes they die, will in doing so, discover who they really are. 

What is the point of gaining the whole world as a prize if, ultimately you discover that you’ve lost yourself? 

When you’ve given yourself away, what is left to give anyone?

When we aim for fame or glory, riches, the newest latest gadget,

education, achievements, wealth,

relationships, sex, 

they can so grip our lives, drive our every move, that we lose ourselves in the quest. 

All the glamorous trophies and prizes of this world, whisper, they call us, in exchange for our souls…. If we accept, we soon discover that they are but dust… they leave us empty.

This is a lesson that reinvents itself in the life of every human being and needs learning over and over again. 

In today’s language Jesus’ call is to self-discovery. 

But not in an inward and individualistic way….if we are truly to follow in the footsteps of Christ, then, like him, we will see beyond ourselves to a world in much need of compassion, love and acceptance.  A world which needs truth and light. 

Learning to lose your life is counter-intuitive.  It is a lesson that needs learning time and time again throughout our lives, and yet is profoundly and utterly true. 

Jesus invites each of us into an adventure of self-discovery, and adventure that we can only begin when we turn our back on ourselves, on glory and success, to lay down all our rights and privileges, to discover that happiness and identity, all that we yearn for it ultimately found in Jesus.    

It is a free and generous gift; but yet it costs us everything.   It means going against the grain of human nature and putting Jesus at the centre of our world.

So practically what does that look like….

Well I think we touched on many of these earlier…..

At the heart of it, is a relationship  – a relationship of getting to know Jesus and becoming more like him – and so I think that means reading our Bibles more, to find out more about Jesus – to really get to know him – so that we can follow in his way….do the sorts of things that he did. 

It means spending time with him… to sit quietly and reflect, to worship him with a favourite CD.

I think it means asking God to speak to us, to lead us by his Spirit. 

It means trusting in Jesus’ death and resurrection – that through him all truth and light and life can be found. 

It means praying for ourselves and for others.

It means reaching out to others in compassion and love. 

It means sharing the news that Jesus is alive – that there is hope and life for everyone.

It means, that in and through our weakness and our inadequacies, in the midst of our fear and uncertainty, saying OK Jesus, I trust you, I want to be like you… let me go there.   Amen.