The sun is at its highest and borders on unbearable. I can feel the heat of the sun seeping through my clothing. My lips are dry and all I taste is dust. That same dust hangs in the air from the crowd moving in front of me.
I don’t know why I’ve been following this man around. He came through Jericho a few weeks ago and was teaching and healing people. I’ve never seen anything like it. The leaders in the synagogue don’t teach like this. They just give us rules and condemnation. This man, they call him Jesus, even speaks against the Pharisees. He claims to be the son of Man and I believe it.
Some of his teachings are encouraging. He teaches that I should not be anxious. God takes care of the birds and the flowers and He loves me so much more, so He will take care of my needs. On the other side he teaches about repentance and perishing if I don’t.
Today was some of the hardest teachings I’ve ever heard. He told us that if we don’t hate our family, our parents, and even our own lives, then we can’t be his disciples. He said I have to bear my cross daily. I have to renounce all that I have to be his disciple.
I can’t wrap my mind around this. God ordained marriage and family in the beginning and said it was good. This Jesus even teaches this. Moses taught us to honor our parents. We are promised it will go well for us if we do. But now, Jesus is telling us that if we want to be his disciples, if I want to learn from him, I must hate my family. If that weren’t hard enough, he wants me to hate my life.
He wants me to bear my cross. My cross. The cross is a means of execution, judgment and death. It is torturous. Gruesome. Humiliating. Shameful.
I can still see those cursed souls I’ve seen on my travels to Jerusalem. It is gut-wrenching to witness a crucifixion. To hear the wails of those trying to capture one more breath by pushing themselves up on the cross.
To the see blood flowing down their bodies and pooling on the ground. The disfigured corpses left to rot and fed on by the birds. The putrid smell of blood, excrement, and death.
This is what this Jesus requires of me. And to do it willingly. He says I must give up everything to be His disciple. It doesn’t make sense.
It reminds me of Abraham and Isaac. God had promised Abraham a son. God fulfilled that promise and then asked Abraham to do something just as hard. God asked him to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham must have thought some of the same things. “God promised me a son and now wants me to kill him. My only son. The son of promise.” But Abraham went to Moriah and set out to sacrifice Isaac. An angel stopped him before he did and the Lord commended Abraham because he was willing to give all he had to be obedient.
Now I am beginning to understand this teaching. It is a hard saying. I have a life-altering choice before me. I can either choose to simply follow Him in the crowd or I can sacrifice everything to be his disciple.
So am I willing to place my family, my parents, my life, all that I hold so dearly upon the altar of sacrifice? Will I be his disciple or an uncommitted follower?