“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;”
So begins Robert Frost’s infamous poem, “The Road Not Taken.” We’ve all been there—at that crossroads where we’ve had to make a choice. As I tell the children in today’s message (using the example of a board game), “sometimes there are splits in the road, where you have to pick which way to go, and just as in real life, what happens to you depends on the choice you make.”
We see the truth of this in the life of Jesus. Though only the Gospel of Luke speaks specifically of Jesus “setting his face toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), all of the gospels recount his journey there. It was the path Jesus chose to take, not simply to a city, but to his death. And despite Jesus’ attempt to prepare his disciples for what is to come in today’s scripture passage from Mark 8:27-38, they simply do not understand. Imagine then, what they thought when he announced, “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). A cross? What’s this talk about a cross? We read it differently because we stand on the other side of it. We know what happened on The Cross—that Jesus, being both fully divine and fully human, denied himself and chose to suffer and die, not for anything that he had done, but for us—God’s wayward children—to show us God’s love, to offer us God’s mercy and grace free for the taking if we simply believe.
Whether we choose to accept this gift, however, is our choice to make. Will we chose to believe and to follow Him with our lives—denying ourselves by giving up living life our way, on our terms, in exchange for the way of Jesus—a way of love and forgiveness and mercy and grace always extending to others? I tell the children it is the most important choice they will ever make, and it is—from an eternal perspective it is the one that, as Frost would say, makes “all the difference.” May it be so—may our salvation be secure as we declare Jesus Christ to be our Savior and Lord but may our discipleship—our decision to follow—be a lifelong endeavor as we chose God’s way over our own each and every day.