This is my radio devotion for Wednesday, October 7, 2020, aired on KBBN/KCNI, who graciously airs devotions from the pastors of the Custer County Ministerial Association.
Good morning, I’m Pastor Matt Fowler of Broken Bow United Methodist Church. In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical, Hamilton, George Washington’s character repeats various phrases of “This is easy; that is harder.” This week, I’m exploring some of the things Jesus does and says in the Gospel of Mark that might fit the following Hamilton-esque pairing: Hearing Jesus is easy; following him is harder.
Jesus’s disciples would eventually learn this lesson the hard way, but I think one of the first times they began to learn it was when Jesus began to teach them explicitly that he’d be killed and then rise from the dead. Peter had just proclaimed with enthusiasm that Jesus was “the Christ” – the messiah, God’s way of saving the world. But when Jesus tells them he’ll be killed, Peter “took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him” (Mk 8:32). In response, “Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: ‘Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts’” (Mk 8:33).
Whoa! Can you imagine receiving such a correction from Jesus? Perhaps that’s why neither Mark nor Matthew record Peter’s or the disciples’ response. In both gospels, Jesus continues with a call for his followers to take up their cross and follow him (Mk 8:34, Mt 16:24). For the disciples up to this point in the gospel, hearing Jesus and even following him were fairly straightforward. He was a teacher. He was a healer. Sure, he got in some arguments, but he was training them to interpret scripture like he did, and empowering them to do what he did. But then there’s this cross language. Suddenly, the end is coming into focus, and following is looking much harder for the disciples of Jesus, then and now.
If you’re a church-goer, you’ve undoubtedly heard a sermon or two on taking up a cross. It’s likely a phrase that is even somewhat meaningful to non-Christian folks. But today, I wonder if we could think about the cross Jesus calls us to carry like this: a cross is a Christ-like or Christ-inspired action we could easily choose not to do. Here are a few to get us thinking.
If we’re at school, work, or coffee, and someone around us starts talking badly about someone else – either gossip or mean-spirited criticism – how could we express Jesus’s care for those who are outcast or mistreated? If we’re caught up in an in-person or online debate – on any topic – how might Jesus, who called peacemakers blessed, inspire our actions and words? If we encounter someone who consistently rubs us the wrong way, who criticizes us, and tears us down, how might Jesus’s actual cross carrying amidst taunts and jeers inspire us to act or respond?
Undoubtedly, it’s easier to hear Jesus than to follow him here, and yet, there’s no sidestepping the reality of his call. And so, let’s prayer for wisdom and strength for today.
God, create in us a clean heart, the heart of Jesus; fill us with wisdom to not only hear, but also follow Jesus with crosses of faithfulness; embolden us to live as witnesses of Jesus. May it be so.
Have a blessed day.