Take up your cross
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” NIV
Many people wanted to follow Jesus as He preached, taught and healed. They were excited about His promise of salvation and eager to receive healing and provision. They were thrilled by the miracles He performed and enjoyed His ministry. Everyone wanted to be a part of the wonderful Kingdom He preached about… until He started talking about the cross.
He not only spoke about His own death on the cross but He said that all who wanted to follow Him had to also take up a cross. That couldn’t have gone down very well. The cross was, after all, the most feared symbol of Roman brutality and punishment. It was so terrible a punishment that Roman law exempted Roman citizens from this form of punishment. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ brought home to modern man the awful barbarity of the cross. And so when Jesus started talking about the cross, I imagine that quite a few people began to pull away from Him. They wanted a leader who would take the cross away, not lead them to it!
But the Cross is central to the life of the Christian, not just because through it we are saved but because by it we are made perfect in Christ. The Cross signifies total surrender and utter obedience to the will of God. It means yielding to God in every situation and in those daily trials and tests that are so very much a part of this life. It means surrendering your own dreams and hopes, laying down things that you hold dear, yielding to God even when you don’t understand, pressing on even when you cannot see the end, choosing to do what is right no matter what. It means being willing to pay the cost for doing what God expects of you. The cross means glorifying Christ in all that you do. The Cross means shame, brokenness, sacrifice, commitment, and yes, suffering too, at times. Being a Christian is no cakewalk!
To all who come to Jesus, He gives a cross – a life to live, a calling to take up, a cause to surrender to – according to the Father’s plan and purpose. It may not make much sense to the carnal mind but it is God’s way. First the cross and then the crown! Every time a person embraces his God-given cross, angels stand in awe and draw near; heaven’s glory comes down … and in heaven a crown is being fashioned!
“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me… is not worthy of me [and] cannot be my disciple” [Matthew 10:38 / Luke 14:27]. A Christian without his cross is a paradox.