I’ve been working on a Women’s Retreat and one of the passages we will study in depth is Luke 9:23. “Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (NIV) The crux of this passage is once we say we are followers of Jesus, we are also saying it isn’t our desires that matter, but His. We live to be just like Jesus.
In John 15:13, Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (NIV) Now, as a Christian I know Jesus was telling His disciples He was about to literally die to save them, and if we say we are His disciples, we should be willing to do the same. However, I also think this verse says very much the same thing as Luke 9:23. If I’m living John 15:13 and Luke 9:23, then I will deliberately think of myself less and others more. So what does “laying one’s life down for one’s friends” really look like?
Yesterday, I went to see Cinderella with some friends. After the movie ended and we were exiting the theater, we hit a bottleneck. It wasn’t until we got out of the theater I saw what had been holding us up. It was a feeble, old man, who looked like he might be 90 years old. He was moving very slowly and hanging on to the arm of a young man I’m guessing was his grandson. The grandson was either in his late teens or early twenties. Just ahead of them was another man, who was probably in his 40s and he looked just like the grandson. These two strapping man had brought their dad/grandfather to see Cinderella. It was the sweetest display of love I’ve ever seen.
I’m guessing when grandpa said, “Boys, let’s go to the movies.” The younger men thought, “Yes! We can go see something where things blow up and everyone has guns.” It had to be a little shocking to learn Gramps wanted to see Cinderella. This is not a movie designed to attract the male viewers. No doubt they thought, “This is the last movie I ever want to see!!” Or, maybe, “I’m not interested in spending my afternoon watching a girl movie.” And yet there they were with grandpa watching Cinderella.
Those guys laid down their lives for the old man. And, that’s what John 15:13 is all about. In the son and grandson, I saw Jesus, and He was beautiful.
Every day, we have opportunities to deny ourselves for the sake of others. Sometimes it’s giving up our time; sometimes it’s giving up our money; and sometimes it’s doing something we don’t really want to do. But we lay down our lives out of love to help a family member or a friend accomplish something of interest or importance to them.
Jesus knew all about love and He knew those who love the greatest are willing to sacrifice. When we lay down our lives for our friends, we show how great our love is for Jesus. And others who are watching will not see us, but will see something more beautiful. They will see Jesus.