There are many well-intentioned ideas circulating around churches these days with respect to how best to follow Jesus. Opinions on this very important subject are as varied and numerous as the trees in a forest. Some opine that we should follow Jesus by taking a particular political stance and follow it up with some kind of determined action that Jesus might have done. Sure, that is one way to follow Jesus. Others opine that we should just be good citizens, play by the rules, and maybe do a charitable deed once in a while. Sure, that is another way to follow Jesus. There are many other opinions buzzing around like so many hornets in a nest. All are ways to follow Jesus. But what is the best way?
In today’s gospel and epistle lesson (Mark 8:27, Philippians 2:4-11), Jesus is very clear about how best to follow him. Jesus declares that he is the Messiah, the one who loves others so much that he is willing humble himself to the point of suffering and dying on their behalf. Jesus says that the best way to follow him is for one to humbly “pick up her or his cross” each and every day and do the things that Jesus did and say the things that Jesus said. That means one must love others in a selfless way, which elevates the needs of the other above one’s own. It means to empty one’s self by taking on the form of a servant to others. Whenever we put service to Jesus, the Gospel and our neighbors above self, we are following Jesus in the best way possible.