Growing up, one of my absolute favourite sets of books was the Mr Men series. I’m sure many of you love these books too! There were so many great characters: Mr Happy, Mr Tickle, Mr Bump – I wonder what’s your favourite? I also liked Mr Topsy-Turvy. As the book begins: ‘Everything about Mr. Topsy-Turvy is upside down, or inside out, or back to front. He’s a funny sort of fellow.’ His front door is upside-down, as are his curtains… and so it goes on.
Whilst we can laugh at the absurdity of the world in which Mr Topsy-Turvy lives, there are times in our lives when things feel turned upside down – and it’s a lot less comfortable. For many of us, the years of pandemic may have felt like that, and every time our news screens are filled with images of a devastating earthquake, we see horrifyingly literal images of life turned inside-out.
All of which lends an uncomfortable context to these words of Jesus. For in this short but challenging passage, Jesus indicates that living in the kingdom of God turns everything topsy-turvy. In essence, we lose our lives to save them. How? By following the upside-down Messiah.
Just as Jesus proves he is God’s chosen one, not through power and success but through the opposite – apparent weakness, betrayal and death – so we prove we belong to Jesus through leading a life of humility and service. We may not carry a literal cross, as he did, but, through a life of humble service, we imitate our Lord’s example.
To coin a phrase: it’s life, Jim, but not as we know it. And yet, it is the path to eternity. We only keep what we give away: in other words, it is in this upside-down approach to living that we find true life. It sounds crazy – but, through the centuries, millions of followers of Jesus have discovered that it really is true, it really works. For the Christ who died was also the Christ who was raised to life. It is not ‘death’ for its own sake, but in order that Jesus’ new life might truly flourish in us!
Whatever cross you feel that you carry today, pray for grace to bear it. Jesus carries it with you, and his ultimate purpose for you is life, and life in all its fullness.