AND HE SAID TO THEM ALL, IF ANY MAN WILL COME AFTER ME, LET HIM DENY HIMSELF, AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS DAILY, AND FOLLOW ME. -LUKE 9:23
In the light of the hyper grace and prosperity gospel, many people are deceived by the misconstrued theology that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for believers. Happiness and self-gratification becomes the bait to attract many into idolatry, in the name of Christianity. It is clear in the Bible though, that we are called to follow Jesus. Jesus’ purpose in walking on earth is to be the first-born among many brethren (believers) (Rom 8:29d) in God’s divine plan of redemption. The redemption was fulfilled with Jesus dying on the Cross and His Resurrection from the dead.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, the 4 accounts in the Gospels give us a very clear picture on the struggle Jesus faced and the agony He was in. “Then He said to the disciples ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death…'” (Matt 26:38a). Twice He prayed that the cup may pass from Him yet each time, He submitted to the Father’s will. An angel was sent by God to strengthen Him that He continued to pray more fervently even in His great grief (Luke 22:43-44). What gave Jesus the strength to go on? It is the joy of the Redeeming Glory of God that is yet to come. Jesus carried the Cross till the end and fulfilled the promise as the first-born among us who dare believes. In John 16: 16-22, we catch a glimpse of what that joy is about.
In the same manner, we are called to deny ourselves (idolatry or selfish desires), take up our cross daily and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). Our individual crosses may differ but what has increasingly become clearer for me is the cross of my chronic illness. Interesting enough, I get my fair share of well-meaning “Peters” who rebukes me as the idea of the cup of suffering does not align with their personal theology (of prosperity gospel?) (see Matt 6:22). The cup of suffering/sorrow is contraindicative to the well received prosperity gospel that many believers now subscribe to. However, we see that it is being affirmed in the Bible repeatedly through the words and lives of Jesus (John 16:33), Paul (Rom 8:18) and Job. Maybe, and most assuredly, this is what it is about to be a Christian. A good book to read on this is Henri Nouwen’s “Can You Drink the Cup?”, where the Nouwen puts the cup of sorrow and cup of joy side by side.
As the term sorrow or suffering suggests, and demonstrated by Jesus Himself, the cup and the journey of the cross, via dolorosa (latin for “Way of Grief”) is not an easy one to swallow. It is full of agony and grief – and we are called to follow after Jesus! Just as I was returning from a medical review with the doctor yesterday which confirmed an on-going flare and officially puts me in a fight mode together with the medical team, the reminder of this being my cross surfaces. The via dolorosa was what I saw, with the Resurrected Jesus waiting ahead of me at the top of the Golgotha hill. I am glad I am not alone walking through the via dolorosa. Together with me along the way are many more like-minded people who has chosen to pick up their cross and walk up the via dolorosa, following the footsteps of Jesus. There was a joy in knowing where it leads – to the Resurrected Jesus, the only reason why my life on earth is worth living. As I reflect more on this, I understand a little bit more about what Jesus meant when He said “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden in light.” (Matt 11:29-30)
My heart was strengthen with Joy.