“Did I sign up for this?” I know I asked that question on occasion. You too?
The Gospel reading for this Sunday is the end of a lengthier segment. Jesus is about to send out His disciples, to go to towns and villages to prepare people for Jesus’ arrival. What a cool job, huh? One would sure think so!
But in the verses previous to our text, Jesus has told them that he’s sending them out like sheep among wolves, that they’ll be hated by everyone because of him, that they’ll be handed over to the authorities and flogged in the synagogues. “Wait! This is the job description?!? Why would I want that?!”
And if all that wasn’t enough, as we get to our text, Jesus communicates to his disciples, “Don’t think that I came to bring peace. Nope. Nuh-uh. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” And oh yeah, who will be the enemies? Sometimes it will be the members of their own households! Wow! Were the disciples asking, “Did I sign up for this?”
Pastor – is this what you signed up for?
And Jesus keeps going! “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:37) I consider my wonderful, aging parents, I think about my four dear kids (and 3 dear in-laws) and I quickly come to the conclusion, “I’m one of those who’s not worthy.”
Oh, and then, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:37) I think of how often I’ve tried to flee “cross” by failing – or refusing – to deny myself, instead seeking my own pleasures or desires rather than the will of God, and now my head is hanging in shame.
Yet one more! “Whoever finds their life will lose it, …” (Mt 10:39a) So, if I focus on me for the purpose of me (just me) I’m not really finding me at all, but I’m losing me?!? That sounds oh-so countercultural! Is that really what Christianity and ministry is about? Yep, it is! So now I think about the many times I’ve focused on me, my feelings, my “popularity,” my opinions, etc., and again, I hang my head in shame.
And I ask, “Did I sign up for this? How could I have?! I’m such a miserable failure that Jesus couldn’t possibly allow me to even see the sign-up sheet, much less to allow me to grab the pen and ink my name to it!”
How valuable for us to remember, then, that the one who urges us to take up our cross also took up his cross, THE cross. And yes, you know it, but we need to hear it all over again: he paid for your sins and my sins, in full. Because of Jesus, you and I have no more need to hang our heads.
And yes, pastor, you and I do need to lose ourselves in so many ways. But remember, “…whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Mt. 10:39b) Want life eternal? In Jesus, you “find” it. Want life-satisfaction that’s lasting? In spreading the Gospel, you have that. Want real recognition? Remember that the eternal, almighty God baptized you into his family, so you are recognized as a child of the most high God.
Then Jesus finishes this oh-so-weighty chapter by saying, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Mt. 10:42) Ministry can be hard, sure. But don’t forget that ministry can sometimes be oh-so-simple.
So, dear brother, serve, as Jesus served. Serve, knowing that Jesus has served you with the ultimate service. Serve in “simple” ways. Serve, knowing that you have an eternal “reward” awaiting you, won for you by your gracious Savior.
And yep! You signed up for this! Or maybe it might be better to say, “Jesus signed me up for this.” Ah yes. What grace.