Written by Brian Johnson
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives?’”
– Matthew 16:24-26 (Common English Bible)
Yesterday in our livestream worship service, we talked about Mary, the mother of Jesus.
We don’t always think of it this way, but Mary is not only Jesus’ mother – she’s also his first disciple.
“Disciple” is a Christian word that’s used to describe someone who follows Jesus – someone who seeks to obey his teachings, share his love, go where he has called us to go. The disciples weren’t just those 12 strange men who hung out with Jesus for a few years – “the disciples” is a term that includes every faithful Christian across the millennia, including us.
In the Christmas story, one of the interesting things is that Mary looks a lot like a disciple – she is following the way of Jesus – before Jesus is even born. Jesus said that his disciples would have to take up their cross, accept all sorts of hardships, in order to follow him. He said that the truest way for us to find our lives was by losing them – that only in giving ourselves away do we discover how much God has in store for us.
Mary lives that life well before Jesus taught anyone about it. When she said yes to giving birth to the son of God, she said yes to a life of “taking up her cross” – to becoming an unwed teenage mother, on the run from violent empires and kings, at odds with the religious establishment, ostracized by her community, with unexpected stress entering into her life and family relations. She also said yes, without realizing it, to raising a son who was destined to suffer at the hands of the powerful. As a prophet put it when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple as a young boy – “a sword will pierce [Mary’s] soul too.”
When Mary said “yes,” she stepped into the unknown. And her willingness to do that was a gift to the whole world. It was hard for her, but it also was life-giving. Her son was born to save her (and all of us). Without her faithfulness and love, the faithfulness and love of Jesus never get to us. She followed the way of Jesus before anyone had ever heard of it – and it changed the world.
I hope that you’ll take some time between now and Christmas to follow Mary’s example – to follow the way of Jesus, to answer God’s call, to share love and mercy, even when it’s difficult, even when it turns your world upside down. Because, when we do that, God can use our small acts of faithfulness to change everything.
If you’ve missed any of our previous daily readings, you can find them all archived here. We hope these readings are helping you encounter God this season!