Matthew 16: 24-25 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
I’m certain the disciples felt that all was lost when Jesus was crucified. Fearing for their own lives, they hid from the authorities. Jerusalem was too dangerous for them; they needed to escape to friendlier locales. At this point in the story of the Church, the Disciples did not understand what Jesus had taught them. They came close a time or two during Jesus’ earthly ministry, but until they were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, their eyes were clouded by their earthly reality.
What would have happened to the Church if the Holy Spirit had not come? If the disciples had scattered to the far corners of the earth before Jesus could provide the final lesson in their education? The answer is, nothing. There would be no Church, no Christians, no hope for the world. We would be lost in our chaotic world without the compass provided by Christ.
At the pivotal point in history, God’s power and omniscience were displayed. In His infinite wisdom and mercy, He provided the next step for our Church’s founding fathers. He gathered His flock together and provided the insight they needed, first with the appearance of Christ over forty days, then by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? What did it mean for the Disciples? It means following the example of Christ. It means loving without thought of returned love. It means letting go of our own desire and wanting only what God has for us. It means lifting up our own cross.
I once heard in a sermon that God can only use those who live at the foot of the cross. I have pondered this a great deal in the years since. First, I looked at who was at the foot of the cross on that awful day of crucifixion There were several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus. But only one disciple dared to stand with Jesus as his last breath was taken from him: John.
When Jesus looked down from the cross, he entrusted the care of his mother to the only disciple he saw beneath him. From that day on, John claimed Mary as his own. He cared for her until her death. There was no one else—not Peter, not James, not any of the Twelve except John.
When Jesus looks for a Disciple for ministry, he provides all that is needed: the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and the Church. It is up to us to be ready to accept our assignment. We must live at the foot of the Cross and be unafraid, willing to cast aside our earthly desires for the joy of following Jesus. This is not always easy. The Disciples paid a terrible price for their decision to follow the One who taught them a different way of living. Tradition tells us that all but one Disciple was martyred. John was the only one who lived out his lifespan, albeit in exile.
What are we asked to do to follow Jesus? Are we willing to pay the price? We can only pray for the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us as we live at the foot of the cross.