24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. 28 “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
I absolutely love this passage. I don’t know if I can explain fully why reading this passage made me smile today, but I am going to try. Already some of you probably think I have had too much coffee this morning. I hope that by the time you are done reading this, you feel the same way I do.
We generally look at this passage as a negative one: we deny ourselves, we take up a cross (those things are heavy!), and we have to lose our life. What? Are you kidding me? What does that even mean and why should I want to do it? This looks pretty grim to me and I’m starting to think that I don’t know if I want to be a part of this whole “following Jesus” thing… These thoughts begin to cloud our mind and we try to analyze what Jesus is saying and how we can actually accept and like what He is telling us and then He tells us that He is going to die (imagine what the disciples were thinking in this moment) and then will come back and judge everyone according to their works (good or bad). “Whoa, ok Jesus, you’re laying it on pretty heavy here…I need a breather!” His very next statement is a breath of fresh air. We must be careful not to let our anxiety over the first 4 verses overtake the beauty of the 5th.
When we read verse 28, we think about the Second Coming, when Jesus will ride in on a cloud and the 4 horsemen are running around exacting judgment upon sinners. But Jesus said that those who were hearing Him speak would not die until they saw Him return in His Kingdom. This means that verse 28 isn’t talking about judgment day, rather His Spirit pouring out upon us. It refers to God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. “Ok, that sounds great, but why should I be happy about denying myself?” Verse 28 is the result of the previous 5 verses! When we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him, we get to witness and live in His Kingdom! This should make us want to deny ourselves and lose our current lives for His sake because it is how we enter the Kingdom of God.
Too often we look at our spiritual and personal transformation as something we have to do instead of something we get to do. Take a serious look at Jesus’ life on earth. Yes, He had difficulties, temptations, people coming after Him to kill Him…but He lived in wondrous communion with God the Father, never worried for anything, and was in constant peace. Isn’t that how you would want to live? What kinds of deeds do you want to be repaid for when Christ returns? Our “good deeds” – truly good deeds – are only possible when we live within God’s will.
When we live in His Kingdom and we deny ourselves and seek out His will for our lives, then we are certain that it is what He wants and what is good. We don’t have to wonder or try to come up with something good to do or even think we have to do it to please God. We know what He wants and we just do it happily and blessed. Too many times we want to run ahead and outside of God’s will and do “good deeds” for Him when they aren’t even things He wants us to do! Then we wonder why God didn’t bless our “good deeds” that we were trying to honor Him with. We think we are blessing Him and making Him happy all the while we could have just asked what He wants us to do and in doing it, know that our work is blessed and that it pleases Him.
The question isn’t, “why should you deny yourself?” but “why wouldn’t you deny yourself?”