Summary: Stations of the Cross, Pt. 1


When skater Michelle Kwan was 13, the junior skater who was still plotting her course in the world of figure skating went behind coach Frank Carroll’s back, submitted her application for senior competition and aimed to transcend her age group. Kwan then pleaded with her coach to allow her to compete with skaters older than her, with those who were savvier and had earlier planned to peak at the right moment.

At that time, Carroll was an unknown coach, Kwan an obscure skater and the coach was caught in an awkward dilemma of whether to send the precocious but eager teenager into senior competition, where maturity was rewarded, and girlishness, play and cuteness were penalized.

Coach Carroll, worried about, horrified for and protective of his prized student at the same time, took the youngster aside, looked seriously at his prized student, and admonished her of the emotional and physical demands of senior competition: “If you want to be a senior, you have to learn what it takes. You have to give up your baby feelings, that ‘I’m tired,’ or ‘I’m sick.’ You have to suffer.” (Los Angeles Times 1/4/93)

Kwan was delighted with her coach’s consent, took his advice to heart and spun, jumped and dance her way to unprecedented heights. Two years later she swept all the major senior competitions in figure skating.

At Caesarea Phillipi, after Jesus had disclosed the first of his predictions about his pending death, he issued a stringent call to the disciples, the crowd (Mk 8:24) and the wannabes who clamored to be with Him: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

What does it mean to deny oneself, take up one’s cross and follow Jesus? What expectations does Jesus have for us when we follow Him? Can we live up to them? And in what way is the return greater than risk?

Serve Others Before Self

22 And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." 23 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Lk 9:22-26)

Augustine, the celebrated defender of the Christian faith who wrote the popular “The Confessions,” was a wild man before his conversion. His carnal lifestyle was outrageous even for a pagan’s standards, keeping a concubine for over fifteen years and fathering a child out of wedlock. He even tricked his mother Monica, who begged him to return to Carthage, his hometown, leaving her stranded at the dock while he boarded an earlier ship to Rome for a taste of the city.

However, the renowned apologist accepted Christ in Milan and after his conversion. Later, he returned to Carthage, North Africa, desiring to put his past lifestyle behind him and served God as promised. Augustine’s first test came when he arrived at Carthage and saw that a wicked former companion, who had played a big part in his slavish desires, had come to welcome him. Augustine trembled at the thought of his youthful passions, took a deep breath before disembarking the ship and hurriedly walked past her to avoid further contact.

The woman who had come to meet Augustine was stunned, confused and upset by this lack of attention. She stopped him, thinking there must be a mistake, but he kept walking, and so she called out to him in a loud, spirited and alluring voice: “Augustine, Augustine, it is I, it is I.” Augustine took a glance, turned away immediately and kept on walking, saying these words: “I know, I know, but it is no longer I, it is no longer I.” (Adapted from 7,700 Illustrations # 6519)

The first criterion in following Jesus is to deny oneself. To deny oneself is not to hate oneself, live in denial or take up a vow of poverty. To hate oneself is to snub one’s heredity or personality, to live in denial is to deny and avoid reality, to take up a vow of poverty is to escape and denounce society.

However, to deny oneself is to concede the right of ownership to one’s life and to transfer the deed to Him, who is our Savior and Lord. It is to grant the power of attorney to Jesus Christ, who alone has the lawful and exclusive claim on your life. Errol Hulse said: “The practice of self-denial for the Christian means that his feelings, desires and comforts take second place to the Lord’s will.”

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