It's surprising how many of the famous things Jesus said don't appear in all four of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). For example, statements such as "do not judge" and the Golden Rule are only in Matthew and Luke. "Seek first the kingdom of God" is unique to Matthew. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" is only found in Luke. John's story is the only place where Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." An important part of letting the message of the scriptures sink in deeply to us is to learn to pay attention to the distinct ways in which each writer of scripture told their part of of the story, particularly in the gospels. The flip side of that method, though, is that the things that do appear in all four of the gospels really deserve our attention. For example, the only miracle that Jesus performed which is recounted by all four gospel writers is Jesus' feeding of the five thousand. Apparently they all saw that event as central enough to Jesus' story that each of them had to include it.
Along these lines, there is one of Jesus' teachings that is included in the gospels more often than any other. Each of the gospel writers makes it part of their narrative, and Matthew and Luke each include it twice. So what is the statement of Jesus which Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John saw as important enough to repeat to their readers a total of six times?
Apparently, this is a phrase that sank deeply into virtually early follower of Jesus in those first generations of disciples. They saw him give up his own life, both in the way that he lived for others and ultimately in his death. When they became his followers and took on his way of life, this was one of the key ways of describing what that life meant for them.
In this week's readings we'll explore this teaching of Jesus and its importance for us this Lent. In doing so, we will look at the statement often connected with it in those gospel stories: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me."
A Prayer for the Day:
O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness while it was day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.*
A Prayer for the Week:
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.*
*From The Book of Common Prayer
[This is part of 40 Days of Prayer: Daily Emails for Lent]