Nearly every World War II war movie ever made contains the sacrificial scene: in the middle of a firefight a hand grenade bounces into the foxhole. Some expendable character in the movie dives atop the thing before it explodes. The hero of the movie sees the valour and sacrifice of his buddy and leads the good guys to victory.
My warped sense of humor wonders about the timing device on the grenade. What if--after covering the grenade with his body--there was a moment’s delay before the explosion? “Dang!” thinks the guy lying on the ground. “I probably had time to pick this thing up and BOOM!” Too late.
I see a connection between cheesy WWII movies and these words of Jesus: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9: 23) Death on the installment plan is much more difficult than dying in a single moment.
Under the right circumstances anyone could give their life once. To give it up daily is something else altogether. The call of discipleship begins with “come and follow.” We follow Jesus in his devotion to the Father. We follow him in his ministry to the masses. And we discover as the first disciples did, we follow him to the cross. The cross of Christ was unique because the perfect Son of God paid what no one on earth could afford. The cross of each disciple is unique because the life of Jesus waits to flow through each one to the waiting world. The cross is the pathway to the resurrection kind of life.
Once you’ve been to the cross, everything changes. Stumbling blocks and foolishness turn into power and wisdom. The Cross changes everything. If something’s pursuing us, then perhaps the event that will change everything is the Cross. If nothing is changing, maybe we haven’t been to the Cross. We cannot carry the same world-changing cross Jesus took up the hill, but we can carry a cross capable of changing our world. It’s smaller, it fits us, and it waits for us each day.
This week’s meditation isn’t morbid or self-loathing. It merely asks whether we have given our lives to the Lord only once or whether we make the same choice each new morning. It looks to imitate the Lord himself with the same hope of reward. Am I willing to die each day, again and again? If so, the resurrection kind of life can become a daily fact of life.