Throughout our Easter series, our Thursday blog posts will focus on two seemingly discordant themes: suffering and joy. We’ll look to the examples of Jesus and the early church as well as exhortations from the authors of the New Testament epistles to see how the juxtaposition of these qualities characterize those who follow Jesus.

 

“And he said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’
Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?'” (Matthew 16:22-25)


What would the perfect day for look like for you? Would you spend it traveling to your favorite place, relaxing at a spa, or do you just long for a single day when your kids would behave? Traveling, relaxing, and well-behaved children aren’t bad things, but what our imaginary exercise probably revealed is our natural tendency to create comfort for ourselves. It’s our first inclination—if we’re the one who gets to be in charge—to focus on maximizing our comfort, believing this is what will lead us to the greatest life and joy.

Jesus turns this tendency on its head. As he explained to his disciples the suffering that would soon willingly submit his life to, he instructed them to follow him on this course of action. He explained that this way—the way of surrender, suffering, and self-denial—is actually the way of life. Instead of envisioning a life free from difficulty and filled with comforts, Jesus calls us to view the life that is spent for the benefit of others as the life well lived and most beneficial, even to oneself.

Take a moment to reflect

What does Jesus tell us the risk is of gaining all we want in the world?

What does it look like for you to deny yourself and seek the fullness of life found in surrender, sacrifice, and following Jesus?