Jesus always said that we had to give up so much for him, leave so many things behind, deny ourselves and follow him. If this is an imitation of Christ, what did Jesus deny? What did Jesus leave behind?
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” – Matthew 16:24
What’s frequently asked of us
Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” – Mark 10:29-30
To understand what Jesus denied, we have to look at what he asks us to deny. Frequently this revolves around family, because they’re such an integral part in our lives. And family can come in many forms. Though it seems odd that God would want us to deny our families, right? Aren’t we supposed to love and care for our families?
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:26
That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Hatred is a strong word. How could the God of love expect such an attitude towards our own families, and ourselves?
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. – Matthew 10:37
Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. “More than me” is a dangerous thing, isn’t it. The Bible loves to talk about priorities, let’s consider this:
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. – Matthew 6:24
Now imagine the word money in that verse replaced by the word family. You cannot serve God and family, God and money, God and yourself. The denial being asked of us is a priority shift, whereby our service and provisions for family are now given to us by God alone, and our hatred is of the flesh and its sinful contamination:
Save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear, hating even the clothing contaminated by corrupted flesh. – Jude 1:23
For more scripture surrounding this complex form of righteous hatred, check out my other post, Who Does God Hate? Let’s continue. What happens when we shift priorities like this? What happens when we start focusing on a spiritual God more than a physical family?
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. – Romans 8:5
The denial of family being asked of us makes our minds always focused on God. And God indeed wants us to be spirit focused!
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. – Colossians 3:1-4
But what about our poor family that we’ve left behind in our list of priorities?
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:31-33
Everything you’ve been entrusted with to care for, the people who depend on you, the family that needs you, will be taken care of by God. He’ll likely use you to do it, but the thing is you can actually do it properly now that you have the right priorities.
Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” – Matthew 19:27
We’re asked to give up everything and deny everything, even ourselves. Like Peter, a good question is “what then?”
Boaz said, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” – Ruth 2:11-12
Are rich rewards, blessings, and eternal life not enough? But the now what question I’d really like to answer is about what Jesus had to deny. Jesus didn’t give up a sinful life, so what kind of example is he? The perfect example.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! – Philippians 2:6-8
Jesus emptied himself of his divinity. The word denial may seem inappropriate when used to describe Jesus denying his omnipotence, because it carries certain feelings of shame and sin, like Peter denying that he knew Jesus. But remember the denial we’re asked to do, which is the altering of priorities, to put down our earthly thoughts and deny their power. What was Jesus’ denial, but of his very nature, so that it could not be used to his own advantage.
But surely Jesus still had all his power, he only gave it up in practice? No. He became fully human. Imagine God the father being more powerful than God the son! More knowledgeable even!
But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. – Mark 13:32
In fact, he didn’t even know who touched his clothes at one point:
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” – Mark 5:30
And yet, through all of this weakness, Jesus’ denial of his divine nature was not a great loss for the trinity, as some might think. Instead it is the very condition demanded of him, for without this denial, he could never be the son of man.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. – Colossians 2:9
Jesus surely emptied himself of his divine nature, yet is filled to the brim with deity and authority and glory.
Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. – John 17:5
Why did Jesus give up all of this? Why did he have to in order to fulfill the condition of the Trinity? The same reason he asks us to do it, to humble himself as a servant.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death. – Philippians 2:8
Denying his divine nature makes him obedient to mortality, and therefore filled with everything we experience: suffering, separation from God, and sin.
Wait, sin? Surely that’s blasphemous! Jesus never sinned! Well, look at it this way:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
This doesn’t mean he sinned, but was treated by God the father as though all of the world’s wickedness was in him. This is called imputation, whereby our sin was imputed upon Christ on the cross.
Christ’s denial is an example to us to show that it creates humility. Any time Jesus asks us to deny something in our life, it’s to make us humble, because we’re using it to be proud. We love to make family our number one priority, thinking that we can take care of our family on our own, but this is pride and idolatry of ourselves and our family. Jesus will take care of our family, all we have to do is deny their top priority and power, and not let them be something we can use to our advantage, but instead give us an opportunity to become humble and rely on God. This certainly isn’t the “nice” message you might be hoping for, denying ones family and all, but pride is worse, and trusting God to instead provide for family and for you is far more eternally worthwhile.
Jesus denied his divine nature for you, now it’s time for you to deny your sinful human nature for him. He’s going to return soon for us, I hope you’re ready.
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!” – Revelations 1:12-18