Today’s Gospel Reading: Luke 9:22-25 – THURSDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY: 7 March 2019
Jesus is keenly aware that His future involves not only suffering, but the further sting of rejection. As a famous German theologian (J. Moltmann in “The Crucified God”, p. 55) says: “To suffer and be rejected are not identical. Suffering can be celebrated and admired. It can arouse compassion. But to be rejected takes away the dignity from suffering and makes it dishonorable suffering.
To suffer and be rejected signify the cross. To die on the cross means to suffer and to die as one who is an outcast and rejected, If those who follow Jesus are to take “their cross on themselves, they are taking on not only suffering and a bitter fate, but the suffering of rejection”.
Jesus enjoins each disciple to “take up his cross daily”. Their cross will not be to join Jesus and be crucified at Jerusalem: Jesus’ experience of the cross is a uniquely significant event in the story of salvation. However, the disciples will have to pay a price for witnessing to the truth of the Gospel, to having the same values as Jesus did, to favoring the same kind of people in the poor, the outcast and the rejected.
If they go public on their outcast God, they will predictably experience being outcasts themselves. They will not only suffer, they will also be rejected. That is the decision the disciples have to face at the cross-roads; whether to follow the path outlined by Jesus, or decline the invitation and travel another route.
The cross stands at the center, demanding attention. Whatever the disciples decide, whichever path in life they take will involve suffering. The question is not whether the individual will suffer in life, the question is “for whom” or “for what”.
And the promise is that if one suffer in following the Gospel of Jesus, then that suffering will be transformed like Jesus’ own suffering. It will eventually be transformed into glory. But, before that happen, the cross-roads have to be faced.
Jakarta, 7 March 2019
A Christian Pilgrim