Death of a Disciple

GrimIt is time to die.

Seriously. It is time to die.

Now, in the natural order of things, all things die. We all will be dead at one point in time or another. Plants die. I’ve had a ton of fish die on me in the past. Death happens. It is the order of life. Birth, life, and then death.

Everyone dies, but not everyone lives. In order to truly live, you must first die.

Whoa…okay…now I’m getting all weirdly esoteric and crud here, I know. But bear with me for a moment. I frequently talk about being spiritually alive and what that means. Being spiritually alive, truly and completely a spiritual person (like so many of us today desire and want to be) we must come to Jesus and follow him, to have him as your savior, Lord, and friend. This is how one becomes truly spiritually alive.

But how do we do that? How is it done? How are we made spiritually alive? By first dying.

Jesus tells his disciples, his followers

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up your cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

Strong words in deed.

A disciple was a student, a learner, generally of a Jewish rabbi who taught the Law, the Torah. During Jesus’ day, disciples would follow their rabbi wherever he went. If he was a traveling rabbi, they would walk all over the countryside with the rabbi. If the rabbi stayed in one city, so did the disciple. The disciple listened intently to the rabbi, watched his every move and did all they could to emulate, be just like the rabbi so that when the time came, they too could teach and live like the rabbi, being just like the rabbi they learned from.

Jesus says to his disciples, his followers that if they want to be like him, they must die. This is both literally and figuratively. Literally, a ton of the disciples of Jesus (later called apostles or sent ones) would die for Jesus. Tradition has it that Peter was crucified upside down, in Acts 12 James (brother of John, the Zebedee brothers) was beheaded, Matthew (also known as Levi) is said to have been killed in Ethiopia, Thomas (the doubter) was killed in India, and the list goes on. There is a literal death involved here for followers of Jesus. To be his disciple is to lay down your life for others.

There’s also the figurative understanding here of denying yourself and living for Jesus. To deny one’s self, pick up the cross, and follow Jesus is to place loyalty to Jesus first. It means to being willing to see what the main thing truly is. It is dying in effect, to an old way of life and rising again with Jesus to a new way of living.

We hear sometimes the words used by people when dealing with troublesome issues (and other people…usually other people) “Well, I guess this is my cross to bear.” Nope. That’s not what it means. Cross bearing isn’t about putting up with crud. It’s about changing your perspective and seeing what’s truly important in life. It is dying to an old way of living so that you will be truly alive right now.

To live, you must die. For true spiritual vitality and spiritual life, you must die in order to live. This is the death of a disciple. To die in order to live.

When we try to save our own butts, to make sure we have it all right, when we place ourselves first, we lose the life we have. We don’t truly live because we’re focused on things that in the end, don’t fully matter. Yet we pursue these things to no end, placing them first, trying to make them our goal. Instead, let it go (and no, I’m not going to start singing a song from Frozen here). Let it all go and rethink your priorities and loyalties. Lose that life and gain real living.

Do you want to live, be truly spiritually alive? Do you want to be truly spiritual in your life? Then be willing to die. It is time to die in order to live. Die with Jesus daily. Consciously die each day with Jesus to the old, to the pursuits of things not needed, and be raised new each day with him, being truly spiritually alive.

Die in order to live.


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