Thursday, May 30, 2024

Our Cross to Bear

“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Matthew 16:25 NLT)

The cross today is a symbol for many. When we see a cross on top of a building, we conclude that it must be a church, because to us, the cross is a symbol of the Christian faith. But for others, it is a fashion accessory. It means a variety of things for a variety of people.

In the first century, however, even the word cross was offensive and bothersome because the cross represented a painful death. The Romans didn’t invent the cross, but they took crucifixion to another level. They designed it to cause pain and torture.

There were more efficient ways to execute someone, but for the worst criminals, the Romans used crucifixion. They nailed them to crosses, which resulted in a slow death. This served as a warning to anyone who dared to revolt against the power of Rome. It wasn’t uncommon to see crucified men on the roads leading into Roman cities.

So when Jesus told the disciples that He would die on a cross, it meant something to them. But then He made it even more personal.

He said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it” (Matthew 16:24-25 NLT).

Jesus wasn’t merely addressing these words to the disciples in the first century. He was addressing them to disciples in every century.

To “give up your own way” means to put God’s will and desires above your own. Selfish people will find this outrageous, even offensive. Narcissists need not apply.

In day-to-day living, “take up your cross” means to die to yourself. Sometimes people describe whatever difficulty they have in life as their cross to bear. A mother might say, “My children are really trouble. But that is my cross to bear in life.” And the mother’s children no doubt will say, “Our mother? Well, that is our cross to bear.”

You might have a difficulty you’re facing, so you say, “Well, we all have our crosses to bear, and I guess this is mine.” And while we will have our challenges and problems in life, that is not what Jesus meant.

In the first century, if you saw someone walking through the city carrying a cross, it meant only one thing: that person was about to die. Therefore, when we read that we are to take up the cross and follow Jesus, it means that we are to die to ourselves.

We don’t hear messages about this very often. And maybe the reason the church today is so weak and anemic is that we don’t know that much about cross-bearing.

Maybe if we stopped trying to be so much like the world, the world would start wanting to be more like us. Are we really carrying the cross today? Are we really dying to ourselves? This is what Jesus is calling us to do.

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