September 9 – Saint Matthew 10:37-11:1, The Saturday before the Elevation of the Cross
Who is Worthy? Saint Matthew 10:37-11:1, especially vs. 38: “And he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” The set of declarations from the Lord Jesus in Saint Matthew’s Gospel ends by saying, “…when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples…He departed” (vs. 11:1). Christ gave clear instructions to the Twelve, but His words apply not just to the Twelve, but also to all members of the Church through all time. Christ’s stringent demands may not be avoided by saying, “They were for the Twelve, for Church leaders, or for the clergy.” No! In the passage, especially in verses 24-42, are commands from the Lord to be obeyed by you and me – if we would be worthy disciples.
Take this thought another step: we ought to connect the commands in this collection to the great command or Commission of the Lord given to all Christians: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19,20). The point is that Christ our Lord is speaking of discipling – the shared task of all Christians – to bring others into the life-bestowing and saving fellowship of the Church, over which the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head and Lord and Master.
However, if we intend to obey Christ as Lord worthily, we will need to undertake this task solely out of love for Him, a love above even the love we have for our parents or our children – should it come down to that (Mt. 10:37). The Lord Jesus’ command implies that, when following or obeying Him, we must be willing to stand up to death in all of its forms, however demeaning (vss. 38,39). Participation in this common effort of the Church is the task of all: Apostles, Prophets, righteous saints, and even humble servants who support the work in the smallest ways, like giving “…a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple…” (vss. 40-42).
Christ alone has the right to make a stringent demand on us like this, to invade our private, intimate family life or to suggest that we stand ready to put our very lives on the line if necessary. His commands are bold, the sort given within the military, and then only in the extremes of combat or battle training. Of course, God has the right to demand such thing of us, He Who says, “I am the Lord your God….You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:2,3).
When caught in a conflict of allegiances, between earthly ties and faithfulness to the Lord, Christ asks that our first love be for Him. During Israel’s wilderness sojourn, God praised the tribe of Levi; for, when pushed to choose, they said to their parents, “I have not seen you; nor did he know his brothers or his own children; they guarded Your oracles and kept Your covenant” (Dt. 33:9). Life in Christ is putting ‘first things first,’ and it may entail hard choices.
“Taking one’s cross” and following Jesus expresses a readiness to face death if need be. But remember: death, as understood in the Church, embraces much more than physical death, though it certainly may include violent, ignominious, bodily death of a sort like crucifixion. One must look at the majestic sweep of the entire Incarnation, the humbling and emptying of Himself undertaken by God the Word on our behalf; and He did it all in love for us. So, to be worthy, ‘following’ must be done out of a similar kind of love, a love ready to let go of anything “…for My sake…” (Mt. 10:39). But, also, we are to love others at great cost if need be.
The Lord does not seek heroes, but a response of love. Receiving Apostles, Prophets, and Saints is wonderful, but so is simply giving a small cup of water to a thirsty, needy person (vs. 42).
O Loving Lord, direct me to divine wisdom and power that I may accomplish all that Thou dost ask according to Thy will, to the profit of others, and to the glory of Thy Holy Name.