What do you think was going through the minds of those who first heard Jesus say “take up the cross in order to be worthy of Me”? The only cross they knew symbolized tortuous death. Did sadness overtake their thoughts as they wonderedwhether they could offer that sacrifice. As we draw closer to Easter we will be reminded of the brutality of the cross. We will hear stories of secret imprisonment, physical and mental abuse, mockery, and shame associated with a public crucifixion. There will be references to torture, the flogging, the crown of thorns, the hammering of nails through the flesh, the spear in the side, the loss of life and the sad reminder that many let Jesus down during His time of need. We should conclude that to be worthy of Jesus, our relationship with Him will require sacrifice but is worthwhile.
Many have interpreted the cross to mean some burden they must carry in their lives. They declare that a strained relationship, a thankless job, or a physical illness is “The cross they have to carry.” However that is not what Jesus meant. “Take up your cross and follow Me” requires a willingness to die in order to follow Jesus – a willingness to “die to self.” It is a request for absolute surrender and doing all we can to be holy and to love as God desires. Hopefully during this Easter period we will hear that Jesus chose the cross because of His holy love. His harmonious relationship with God the Father, God the Holy Spirit and His creation flows from this love and made the cross the obvious and necessary choice. The cross was a brutal option but two thousand years later, we can see the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love.
Hopefully during this Easter period people will ask themselves “how difficult is it for me to take up the cross.” Many avoid Jesus’ call because they anticipate inconvenience, sacrifice and possible suffering? However, Jesus would not have asked us if He thought we could not do it. The cross requires a commitment to intentionally love God with all our heart, our soul, our mind and with all our strength (Mark 12:30). If we pursue harmony with God, His creation, and ourselves the cross will become a banner and not a burden.
Have you started your journey to the cross? Ask God to be your guide. Admit your tendency to stray off the path but acknowledge your willingness to follow Jesus. Ask to be protected from the evil one who wants to derail your efforts. Pray for wisdom as you read scripture and encouragement as you pray. You need the view from the cross in order to see eternity as God promised.