22 February 2023

‘We take up the cross as a way to the Resurrection’

Major John McLean

Photo shows a cross and a palm leaf against a light background.

Major John McLean encourages us to see beyond ourselves as we begin the journey towards Easter.

We are all familiar with the picture painted in Matthew 26:36–46 when Jesus takes some of his disciples to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. Jesus finds himself in the middle of an emotional tug of war. In this deeply painful prayer, he prays: ‘My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way’ (Matthew 26:42 The Message). It is in this imagery we begin the journey towards Easter.

Jesus, faced with the brutal reality of his death on the cross, surrenders to the will of the Father. He realises that, although in real terms the few days ahead would be filled with unbearable cruelty and pain, he has to look beyond himself and see God’s redemption plan for the world.

Over the next 40 days we want to deepen our appreciation for all that Christ did on the cross and understand what it means to live a life through the lens of the cross, to respond to the invitation of Christ to look ‘beyond me’ and realise that we are not only partakers in God’s redemption plan, but are also called to participate in his mission to redeem our families, our communities and our world.

When Jesus took up his cross, it was an active choice that he made. He came to bring the Kingdom of God to the world and, in doing so, took up his cross. When we use the phrase ‘[   ] is my cross to bear’, we are describing something that has happened to us. This is not the call that Jesus is making. Jesus is calling people to make an active choice. A choice, as he says in Mark 8:35, ‘for my sake’ (New Living Translation).

I’ve known people who have given up things like TV, sugar, coffee or certain foods for Lent. Others have given up time. A friend of mine gave up an hour each day that he normally spent sitting in front of the TV and went for a jog. It took a considerable amount of prayer and effort to abstain from these habits.

As we give up a normal part of our daily lives, let us remember that in a small way we are dying to ourselves. The Christian life is a life of dying to self. It is a life of taking up our crosses. As we feel the loss of what we’ve given up for Lent and rise to the challenge of moving ‘beyond me’, let us remember that we are making an active choice for Jesus’ sake.

A friend asked me recently to think about what my crosses are. Some of them are very challenging, while others are just petty annoyances that I would prefer not to have to deal with. Jesus says I must deny myself. What does that mean? What do I deny? Wanting my own way? Wanting things to be easy or comfortable?

In Qualities of a Spiritual Warrior, Graham Cooke suggests the challenges we experience in life are opportunities to see God acting in us in ways we would not otherwise experience. What is he teaching me? How can I grow in love, trust, and deep faith in him? How does he want to purify my heart so I can see ‘beyond me’ and be united in his love?

We have an opportunity to grow in our ability to trust him and to build our joy as we focus on his victory in faith rather than seeing the struggles on the way there. We don’t embrace the cross for the sake of the cross; we take up the cross as a way to the Resurrection.

Beyond Me: A 40 Day Devotional

This article is based on Beyond Me: A 40 Day Devotion for Lent by Major John McLean, available to download from salvationist.org.uk/resources.

An audio version of Beyond Me is being produced by the online Plexus Corps. Episodes will be released daily and a Facebook group provides a forum where listeners can share experiences and responses. Join the conversation on Facebook. Listen online at selahtimetobreathe.podbean.com.

Written by

A photo of John McClean in Salvation Army uniform

Major John McLean

Corps Officer, Hendon

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