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Daily Devotional • May 15

Melissa McKinney
The Paradoxical Way
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 9:18-27

18 Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”19 They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” 20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.”

21 He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone,22 saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

23 Then he said to them all, “If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit them if they gain the whole world but lose or forfeit themselves? 26 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.27 Indeed, truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

This reading from Luke 9 reminds us that Jesus knew well the path leading to his ascension: he must descend before his ascent. In verse 22, Jesus reveals to his disciples “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected … and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Though Jesus knew that God would elevate him through both resurrection and ascension, he knew that first he must descend even to death. Philipians 2:6-8 speaks of this paradoxical path and Christ’s choice in the matter: 

though [Christ] was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…

Paul uses this illustration of Christ’s descent and subsequent ascent to call the Philipians to live like Christ in selflessness and humility and to look to others’ interests before their own. Similarly in Luke 9:23-24, Jesus directs his followers to live in light of the cross: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” This week as we approach the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord, we are beckoned to first reflect upon the path that led him through self-denial, suffering, and even death itself. 

Prayerfully consider: In what ways might God be beckoning you to this cruciform life today?

Melissa Amber McKinney is a Pittsburgh native, a writer, and an M.Div. student at Trinity School for Ministry. She works as an afterschool nanny and the music leader at Mosaic Anglican Church in Imperial, Pennsylvania. 

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Swansea & Brecon – The Church in Wales
Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, Tallahassee, Florida
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