Did you ever have some important news or announcement to make and call the family together to share it, or perhaps the office staff, or dart club buddies?
Mark’s recounts a time when Jesus did this. He “called the crowd to him along with his disciples.” Clearly He wanted to share something of primary importance. Everyone needed to hear this, both the masses and His disciples. Then He spoke: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)
Turn your back on the allures if this world if you want Me, He says. I’m the only One Who can collect your soul and bring it safely to eternity, but you’ve got to leave your luggage behind! “But it’s Bottega Veneta Six-Piece Alligator costing $157,000.00!” you protest. If you want the luggage you’ll have to stay here! You can’t bring it along.
We’re a pretty dense people when it comes to this sort of thinking, so Jesus spells it out clearly: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (v.36-37). What good is it to have your stuff if you haven’t got you!
Missionary Jim Elliot understood this. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” he summarized. This was not just an intellectual understanding for Jim Elliot gave his life. He was martyred Jan. 8, 1956 while serving as missionary to the Waodani people of Ecuador – a tribe which years later turned to Christ.
Luke relates another incident of required self-sacrifice. Jesus and others are walking along and a man professes to Jesus: “I will follow you wherever you go.” No hotels, says Jesus. “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” “Oh!” I can well imagine the man responding as he raises a palm to cover his mouth.
“Follow me.” He says to another. “First let me go and bury my father.” comes the plea. Nope! No waiting. My followers must follow me now! “First let me go back and say goodbye…” begs another. But no deal. “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (see Luke 9:57-62) Followers, follow. They don’t re-negotiate the route.
This isn’t a parade, its a rescue mission!