“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Let us meet Jesus; in him we see God.
Let us seek his presence as a friend.
Let us follow him for his way is life and truth.
He will bring us where we need to be
to do God’s work and be God’s people.
we come together in your presence.
We ask for courage to take steps
towards places we cannot yet see,
and do things we cannot even imagine,
and could not do without you.
Help us all to help each other
as we travel that path and follow you.
Great Is thy faithfulness 51 Singing the Faith
Matthew 16:21-28 New International Version
Jesus Predicts His Death
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many
things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and
on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have
in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their
cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me
will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can
anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his
angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming
in his kingdom.”
From heaven you came, helpless babe 272 Singing the Faith
Today, we’re looking at a crucial question of our Christian faith: What does it mean to follow Jesus?
In today’s gospel reading (Matthew 16:21-28), we get a statement from Jesus that answers this
question in a very clear, simple, but challenging way. Jesus says: “If any want to become my
followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
So, today we dive into this, and explore what Jesus is teaching us about what it means to be his
follower, what it means to be a Christian. And this statement has three dimensions to it, so let’s
take each of them in turn. We’re going to start by looking at the first two.
First, Jesus teaches that we must deny ourselves. This is definitely not a popular teaching in our
world today! It never has been. It won’t win you an election. It won’t make you famous. And we
don’t hear it anywhere else but in church. If you go on the internet and search for websites or
YouTube videos that teach you how to deny yourself, about all you will find is this teaching from
So, what is Jesus talking about here? I think he simply means that there are times when we must say
“no” to ourselves in order to say “yes” to God. It’s really that simple.
And maybe you even did that today. You came here this morning, you’re watching or reading this
sometime, when you didn’t have to - but you did it anyway. If that’s the case, then you denied
yourself, at least on a small scale. And I think that is some of what Jesus is talking about. Sometimes
we must say no to ourselves in order to say yes to God.
I also think that, on a deeper level, Jesus is saying that we must deny our false selves in order to truly
be the person God created us to be. What is our false self? It’s the self that is governed by the
world’s standards. It is the self that equates success with happiness. The self that believes that the
one who literally ends up with the most toys wins. The self that thinks that things like more money,
more power, and more pleasure are what will bring more peace.
Isn’t this all our false self? And only when we deny it can we become our true self, the person that
God has created us to be. We don’t have to be anything different from who we truly are. But we’ll
never discover and accept who we truly are until we deny the false self that we all have. That is step
one to following Jesus.
“If any want to become my followers,” Jesus says, “let them deny themselves and take up their cross
and follow me.” If denying ourselves is unpopular these days, then how about taking up our cross?
And what does that even mean?
One thing we all learn in life is that not all crosses that we take up are voluntary. Sometimes a cross
is placed on our shoulders that we didn’t ask for. Any unsettling health diagnosis, the death of a
loved one, the loss of a job – these, to me, are crosses that we don’t ask for. But when we accept
them, and trust God to be with us through them, then we are taking them up as crosses. They are
not God’s punishment – I don’t believe that – but when we can accept them, we can begin to see
God at work in them.
There are, of course, many other crosses that are voluntary. Tasks, for example, that we know will
be difficult, but that we choose to do anyway, because we believe that God wants us to. There are
many stories of people, putting themselves in harm’s way on our behalf. Think of Sergeant Graham
Saville who died just this week after being hit by train while he helped a distressed man.
But another thing that I have become convinced of is that the cross that we are asked to take up by
Jesus changes over our lifetime. The cross that you are asked to take up as a young person is very
different from the cross that you are asked to take up as an older person. As a young person, your
cross might mean standing up for what you believe, even when it’s unpopular. It might mean saying
no to friends, even when it threatens your friendship.
If you get close to someone, live with a partner, there are new crosses, including those times when
you are called to put thar person’s needs and interests before your own. If you have children, there
are new crosses as well. Including caring about your child so much that it hurts you when they are
hurt. As you continue to age, new crosses present themselves. Giving up independence, as you no
longer are able to drive. Learning to humble yourself and rely on others for help.
And, again, these crosses are not always voluntary. But part of what it means to follow Jesus, I
believe, is to try to accept them gracefully, and humbly, and courageously. Accept the cross, trust
Jesus, and follow him. And when we do this, we’ll be telling the world much more about what we
believe than any words we might say.
The truth is that I don’t know what cross you are being asked to bear right now. But I do know that
there is a cross that is yours and no one else’s. There was a cross that was only for Jesus. There was a
cross that was only for his first disciples. There is a cross that is only for me. And there is a cross that
is only for you. And if we want to follow Jesus, we must take it up. Take up our cross.
But as we do this, and choose to take up our cross, let us remember the third and final aspect of
what Jesus is teaching us today about what it means to follow him: That we deny ourselves and take
up our cross in order to follow him. And that means that when we do this, Jesus himself will be with
us. He will be leading us. And he will help us do what he asks.
With Jesus leading us, we can deny ourselves and take up our cross. Without Jesus, it would be far
too difficult. But he doesn’t ask us to do this alone. He invites us to follow him, which means to be
This brings to mind for me another invitation that Jesus makes. He also invites all that are weary and
carrying heavy burdens to come to him, and he will give you rest. Take his yoke upon you, he says,
and learn from him. For his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
When we are yoked with Jesus, we no longer do whatever we want and go wherever we want. We
are denying ourselves. And we are taking up this burden, this cross.
But Jesus takes it up with us. And that makes the cross bearable. Denying ourselves and taking up
our cross means being yoked with Jesus. It means losing one life, but it means finding another. It
means losing the life that leads to despair and emptiness, but it means finding the life that leads to
hope and meaning.
And the only way to find this life, is to deny ourselves, and take up our cross, and follow Jesus. So let
us try to do so, to the glory of God. Amen
Father hear the prayer we offer 518 Singing the Faith
Loving God, it’s tempting to try to blame you when we see the problems in our
world today. We see so much pain and sadness, hunger, starvation, trauma
and displacement because of war, terrorism and natural disasters. In the past
few weeks and months, we’ve witnessed earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and
wildfires graphically displayed in the news on our TV screens. We pray today
for all people and creatures who are suffering in the aftermath or as a result of
all these things. We pray for those who have lost their homes and all that they
have, we pray for persecuted people and refugees throughout the world. Help
us to be understanding, loving and welcoming to those who arrive in our towns
and cities and to listen to their stories.
Help us to be the answer to our own prayers, to make a difference where we
are, with the people you give us to share life with. May we hate what is evil
and hold on to what is good. Help us to rejoice in hope, to be patient in
suffering, and to persevere in prayer. Show us opportunities to contribute to
the needs of all people; so that we can offer hospitality to strangers and live
together in peace.
We pray for wisdom and honesty among world leaders and all who hold
positions of power and authority. May all people working for the benefit of
others find the courage to stand up for those with no voice of their own
whatever the cost.
We think of people close to us who are suffering. Those who are sick, those
who have lost loved ones and mourn for them, and those who find it hard to
forgive those who have caused their pain. Help us to demonstrate in our own
lives that forgiveness brings healing: that the words ‘I’m sorry’ can close an
Loving God, we hold on to the promises that you have given us that evil will
not win and that you will protect us. We know that you did not promise us that
our journey with you would be easy or free from pain and suffering, but we
give thanks that you are with us whatever our circumstances. By the power of
your Holy Spirit, help us, in our lives to see the world through your eyes. “So let
us learn how to serve and in our lives enthrone him, each other’s needs to
prefer, for it is Christ we are serving.” In his name, we bring our prayers to you
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
O Jesus I have promised 563 Singing the Faith
Go out to follow Jesus further.
He won’t go out of your sight.
He will always be there if you look.
Look hard, because he may not be where you expect.
But where he is, is where you – we – want and need to be.
These are the Worship at Home versions of the In Person Services, led by our Minister :-
Each Service has the videos of the songs and a transcript of the Sermon or reflection.
The Song references (StF) are from the Singing the Faith song book.
The videos of the songs are linked to YouTube or vimeo which may have advertising which Kingswood Methodist Church does not endorse.