When you go through the scriptures, you will find God’s promises of favour, healing, protection etc. Many people believe that this is only what Christianity is all about.
When they do not seem to get answers to the healing, favour, open doors etc, they lose faith in God. So, to be a true disciple of Jesus goes more than only the favour we receive.
I hope you have heard people say things like “Christianity is a scam”, “Jesus never existed” etc.
These statements are made by those who think that being a true disciple of Jesus only means to have abundant favour, miracle (oru ebube), healing etc. You have seen people who rush to miracle centres seeking signs and wonders (ebe ona akpotu). When their problems remain as is it despite the places they run to, they come back to tell you that Jesus is a scam.
In our prayers, we hear things like “open door is what we are praying and nothing more”. When they seem not to get what they are seeking, they lose faith. Many people wander from one place to another seeking miracles.
In today’s gospel Jesus reminded His disciples that if they truly want to be His disciple they must keep to three things; to deny oneself, take up the cross and come after Jesus.
These are what it means to be a true follower of the Lord. Our relationship with the Lord is not miracle based but for the salvation of our souls.
To Deny Oneself.
To deny means to openly acknowledge that something is not true. It also means refusal to allow someone to receive or have something.
The self is always occupied with ego, pleasures, inordinate desires, incessant quests, weakness, self-beliefs etc. The point here is that Jesus is not telling us not to take care of ourselves. Jesus is saying that nothing that the self has or wants to have, should take His place in our lives.
So to deny oneself is the refusal to allow our earthly desires, self-ego, weakness etc occupy us to the extent we begin to lose our faith in Him.
Today, we find it hard to have time for the Lord because we are so busy and occupied with many things. We seem to be more interested in the salvation of the body than the salvation of souls.
This is the reason many can go to any extent today to kill, maim, kidnap and sell even their bodies to make money.
Many wander in the nights, some keep sleepless nights to do anything to get what they want but hardly do we spend even one minute in communication with our Creator. In Galatians 2:20, Paul tells his hearers “I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live, but now Christ lives in me”.
Therefore, to be His follower is to live for His sake. If we are truly His disciple, Jesus should be the first and not the last.
Take Up the Cross.
Next is to take up your cross daily. This statement only is an affirmation that every person has his or her daily crosses to carry. Crosses are not merely suffering, pains or challenges.
The cross goes more than these to mean those things that would have made you lose faith in God. They may come in the form of weakness of the human body. You wake up to pray but your body says no.
They may also come in the form of temptations. You want to keep going without sinning against God but temptations keep coming.
They can also be the mistakes you have made that wanted to drift your faith away. It can also be in the form of insults and persecutions, betrayals etc.
Sometimes you meet people who make fun of your faith and reduce you to an object of scorn because of what you believe and how close you are to God. You will find this in your families, schools, among your classmates, age mates, friends etc.
Jesus says, if you are truly His disciples, be willing to take these as sacrifices you have to make for Him. So praying for favours and open doors is not wrong, but to be a true disciple of Jesus is to remain strong even when things come against you.
To be a Christian is not only during Christmas, new year and valentine celebration. It also involves the lent and good Friday. We have to be willing to make sacrifices especially in this Lenten period.
Come After Him.
To come after someone means to follow the person in a logical sequence. It also means to learn from him and live the way he lived.
The Greek word used here is καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι (kai akoloutheitō moi) meaning to follow, come after, and to be in the same way with someone.
To come after Jesus then goes beyond merely being a church member to live the way Jesus lived. It is when we learn to be in the same with the Lord.
It is the yearning to be good, humble, peaceful, faithful to God, and merciful. A true follower of Jesus is not only a saint in the public, but in secret, He is the worst. A true follower of Jesus is not only good in the church but at home, he or she creates division everywhere.
He, who is a true follower of Jesus does not scatter souls and make them go astray. He makes his/her life become a living gospel for others to read.
In the reading, Jesus says that He who lives His life for God’s sake must surely find it. The Lenten season is a call to know truly what our call is and live to become it. So the question for you and me is ; are we sure, that we are true followers of Jesus?
May God helps us to live the way He wants, may He continue to give us the grace to come close to Him. Amen.