“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Matthew 16:24-26 NRSV).
A saying like this relies on the ability of the hearers to see two meanings for the word “life.” Otherwise, how could it be true that by losing one’s life one saves it? As applied to believers, it means we give up all that the world considers “life”—comforts, wealth, prestige—in order by humble service in God’s will to gain “life” in the sense of God’s approval and fellowship, both here and in eternity. In Jesus’ own case, he denied himself “life” in the sense of action independent of his Father’s will—gaining the whole world by a single act of betrayal of his Father—in order by obeying his Father to gain his real “life”: God’s approval. The voice from heaven at the baptism had said “this is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well-pleased.” Jesus will now confirm that testimony by denying himself and taking up his cross—his Father’s mission for him to save the world, not “gain” it.
Often today, the Devil tempts us, implying that we have needs that can only be met by disobeying God's will. But he has twisted the truth. For it is when we are willing to bypass our own selfish ambitions and desires in order to do the will of our Father, that angels also come to us and minister to us. Have you not also experienced this?