Have you ever heard of someone having to do something that is such a burden that they say that it is their cross to bear?
A bear? HA! The first time I heard that, all I thought of was a grizzly bear carrying a cross in a groaning roar. I chuckled a bit.
But why do we say this?
Why a cross? My first experience with anything to do with a cross was a necklace. I got this really cool necklace for Christmas one year with the Lord’s Prayer etched onto it. It was a beautiful stainless steal necklace.
I always saw it as tattoos, and jewelry, and on the outside of churches and bumper stickers, but I never really thought about it. We use the cross in a lot of places, and find the cross to be a beautiful thing to worship.
The cross is not beautiful though.
The cross was a sign of torture and death. The Roman Empire used this cross as the most severe form of punishment. They beat, bludgeoned, and tore people apart before nailing them to a 15 foot piece of wood and standing it vertical. Torture and death.
Here is my issue. Take it with a grain of salt.
We idolize the cross.
Now, I have nothing against churches preaching a message about the cross, but what I have an issue is when the church mistakes preaching the shape of the cross instead of the true meaning of the cross.
Christ died for us on a cross. That is what’s beautiful. The fact that Jesus, God’s only son, perfect in every way possible, sinless, and the pure spotless lamb of God, died for the people who killed him. Not only killed him, but tortured, beat, and nailed him to a cross. He willingly, out of his love for us, subjected himself to the worst possible torment designed at the time. For us! For you! For every person who has ever walked this earth!
We are taking the cross as a beautiful thing and using it as tattoos and jewelry and are losing the real message of Jesus dying for you on it! For you!
The cross is not beautiful. It’s ugly. The story of it, is ugly.
But Jesus subjecting himself to the torture and death on a cross, so that you may have a chance at eternal life with him, that is the true beauty.
Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
What did he mean by this?
If we desire to be followers of Christ, there are two things we need to do according to this verse. One is to deny ourselves. We must accept Jesus as the Christ, and that He is greater than ourselves. Our desires, are now pointed toward what God desires. The second thing is that we have to take up our cross and follow Him.
The cross is about torture, AND death. The phrasing of someone who has a cross to bear when something is inconvenient, or may involve suffering, I believe this analogy is inaccurate. When Jesus says that we need to do this, he is saying that in order to follow him, while it may involve suffering, following him is willingly accepting the possibility of dying for your faith.
Jesus says to deny yourself and willingly take the chance of dying, for the sake of following Him. We must deny ourselves, and willingly accept that following Jesus may lead to our deaths. He says this, because He is much greater than death.
I was the worship leader at a summer camp in West Michigan for the past few summers, and there is one thing my boss said to us that will always stick with me.
“The only thing that we can promise you this summer, is that you may die for Jesus Christ.”
Take hold of this. Jesus says to deny ourselves and to pick up our cross everyday to follow him. So, bear your cross, deny yourself, and follow Jesus.