All humans learn how to be selfish from birth and, if we don’t do anything intentional about it, it persists and even worsens until the day we die. This is why the words of Jesus in vv.23-26 challenge us to the core. Jesus uses his pending physical death on the cross to talk about another kind of death. As far as I can tell, Jesus says that if someone is going to follow him as a disciple we must be willing to die. This is why he says, “whoever serves me must follow me” (v.26). Jesus is not suggesting that we are to follow him by doing on the cross physically but by picking up our cross daily. He is calling us to a death he died way before he went to the cross. Jesus, before the cross even came, was already dead to self-centered, egotistical, narcissistic living. He laid down his life by living a life of totally abandoned love for God and for people. His decisions were not centered around what he wanted or needed, but glorifying the Father and serving people. We may be tempted to say, “well that was good for Jesus but I’m not him.” True, but he says “follow me,” which means walk as I walk, live as I live.
Many of us realize that Jesus’ words are quite true when he says “if you love your life you’ll lose it but if you lose your life you’ll find it.” My most fulfilling moments in life have come when I was sacrificially and wholeheartedly loving and serving God and people. However, I am constantly tempted toward self-centered living. Even our relationship with God and service in his name can easily become more about us than it is about him. Lord, save us!
Here’s a question for you to consider and, hopefully, post a response to: How has God helped you die to self-centered living? What people, what Scripture, what prayer patterns, etc. have helped you follow Jesus to the cross where ego and selfishness is crucified?