The Hard Road
JANUARY 18, 2023
Jesus calls us, as his followers, to walk the same way that he walked. And that’s a very hard road. In Mark 8:34–9:1, Jesus realized how little the disciples understood of his ministry. They, like us, figured that following Jesus was a sure way to health, wealth, and happiness. It was within this context of misunderstanding that Jesus gave his hard teaching on discipleship.
Jesus says, “I’m not calling you to a party, but to a purging. I’m not calling you to a comedy, but to a contest. I’m not calling you to a blast, but to a battle in which everything is at stake.”
Here is how Jesus explains life with him:
“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. . . . For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (verses 34, 38)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like those words one bit. It would have been easier had Jesus promised Peter a successful fishing business and the disciples self-fulfillment, prestige, and power. But Jesus was not a conman—he was the truth. His business was to tell the truth. That’s why he wants his disciples to hear loud and clear, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me down a way which will be narrow and difficult.”
Jesus calls us, as his followers, to walk the same way that he walked. And that’s a very hard road.
I believe we as Christians have grievously erred in offering to the world an insipid, watered-down, happy-go-lucky, Disney World Christianity. We have taken the challenge, the nails, the blood, the sweat, and the tears out of Christianity. And then we’re actually surprised when it wilts before secularism, materialism, and tough circumstances. What did we expect?
Jesus teaches the disciples and us that if we want to go to a tea party, we should go somewhere else. If you want to play games, go somewhere else. Jesus calls us to turn the world upside down. We are called to build a kingdom, and that comes at great cost.
Denying oneself, taking up one’s cross, and following Jesus Christ is radical Christianity. And, in the modern world, only radical Christianity can make a difference.
We walk the same road as Jesus, with Jesus.
Jesus calls his disciples to walk a very hard road marked earlier by his own footsteps. “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (verse 31). Jesus is asking us to follow his footsteps. He is not asking us to do something he has not already done.
Sometimes when I’m strongly tempted, I cry out to him. Sometimes when I’ve done the best I can and everyone has misunderstood, I cry out to him. Sometimes when I’m tired, lonely, and afraid, I cry out to him. And he always responds with “I know.” The day will come when I lay my life down and face death head-on, crying out to him. And again he will respond “I know.” Jesus identifies. Jesus understands, and because he understands, he sympathizes. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus Christ is not the kind of commander who stands on the hillside, pointing us to the battle. He is one who has gone before and who bids us follow. The road would be impossible were it not for the footprints—his footprints.
This is excerpted from Steve’s minibook, Suffering: When Life Falls Apart.