Jesus warned his disciples that he was going to be killed. When Peter tried to stop him, Jesus insisted that his act of self-sacrifice was necessary, for all their sakes. Indeed, self-sacrifice is the basic principle of life for all his followers.
We have to each take up our cross...
We must voluntarily surrender our need to have our own way, living only for ourselves, ignoring the needs of others. We must exchange OUR plans and OUR self-will, for a life lived for the benefit of other people. We must each be ‘a man (or woman) for others’. ‘Those who want to save their life will lose it,’ Jesus continued, ‘and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’ For the martyrs this literally meant dying, but Jesus calls every Christian to sacrificial living.
‘What good will it do anybody’, asked Jesus, ‘to gain the whole world at the cost of their life?’ In another place, Jesus told a story about a rich fool, who heaped up riches, but they were no use to him because he died that very night, and left others to enjoy the money he’d worked so hard to accumulate. Perhaps you’re puzzled because in one passage Jesus says that surrendering your life is a good thing to do, and in the other he warns that for some people dying is an unmitigated disaster. It may help to know that the word for ‘life’ in the original language of the New Testament was ‘psyche’, which the Authorized Version of the Bible translates as ‘soul’. What people call ‘selling your soul to the Devil’ does you no good in the long run, because what the Devil can give you doesn’t last. But if we keep the spiritual side of us intact, we begin to understand that the death of the body is almost insignificant, in the perspective of eternity.
This warning is particularly relevant in a materialistic age. Advertisers persuade us to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ - we must buy things we don’t really need, things we don’t really want, and with money we haven’t really got! Rich fools, the lot of us! The materialist sees no value in self-sacrifice and can’t explain or fathom true altruism. Yet, sacrifice is a basic principle of creation, just look at the natural world and mothers sacrificing themselves to predators in order to save their young. It has been said that pain is essential if we are to learn not to put our fingers in the fire! Thus, Jesus’ attitude to suffering begins to make real sense. We must suffer, even die, in order that others may fully live. During this pandemic, the example of sacrificial living and a determination to put other people first has saved the lives of thousands of people amidst the terrible losses and suffering.
So what are we willing to sacrifice for Jesus this Lent? Are we ready to live simply, that others may simply live? Are we willing to focus on our Christian calling and serve our neighbours in need? Sacrificial living is hard; but if we follow in the steps of Jesus to the cross, he will lead us all on into resurrection.
With every blessing,