I am a Christian. I find my very meaning, purpose, direction and joy in life through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yet sometimes I struggle with what God teaches us in the New Testament and what God has for our life. When I say “our life” I do not mean my own life but I mean the life of any Christian. Jesus calls us to, “deny oneself and take up his cross and follow me” (RSV Matt. 16:24). The very idea of denying myself of all selfish ambitions, motives and thoughts and concerning myself with the lives of others can be overwhelming. These feelings can quickly lead to fear when I consider that the call to pickup a cross and follow Jesus is to follow Jesus to death. Jesus loved others so much that He died on the cross for others- following Jesus and carrying a cross means that we will love others so much that we are willing to die for them. Are we willing to follow and love in such a way that could lead to our very death? I think that the answer would typically be no, we are not willing.
The truth is that within all of us lies a Herod, chief priest, scribe and all Jerusalem. What do I mean by this statement? In the birth story of Jesus we see that wise men from the east came to worship Jesus after he was born. On their journey to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, the wise men pass through Jerusalem- bringing them to the very doorstep of the ruthless king Herod. King Herod was a man who killed anyone who he felt was a threat to his power, this includes his own children and wives. You see when the wise men said they were enthusiastically looking for the king of the Jews that was born, Jesus- the Bible says that all the people in Jerusalem, Herod, chief priests and scribes were “troubled” (Matt. 2.3-4). Obviously Herod, chief priests and the scribes were concerned for their power but why, “all the people” of Jerusalem? Within all of us there is an element of fear and uncertainty about what the coming of Jesus means for us. Will God desire something of us that is too difficult? If he does ask something difficult of us- will we respond with joy or caution or will we be strong enough to say yes? Despite our feelings of inadequacy, God commands us to follow His commands- right down to the loving others to a potentially literal death. I do not believe that He expects this to be easy and I believe that God knows that we all can be troubled by this call. We even see all the people in Jerusalem concerned about what the birth of the Savior means for them. We can be concerned, we can have elements of Herod but may we always say yes- knowing and believing that because of Jesus’ arrival into this world, we can take up the cross of love.