Do we 21st Centurians really understand the shame that comes with the cross?
I’ve heard so many people say things like,
“Oh, I have a bum shoulder, but I guess that’s my cross to bear.”
“Oh yea, she’s the black sheep of the family. But I guess that’s the cross that we have to bear.”
No. Those aren’t “crosses” to bear.
When Jesus said that in order to be a disciple, we need to take up our cross… it seems to go beyond a physical ailment or a slightly embarrassing family members who may not live up to our standards.
I think the Jews who heard Jesus say this knew the full implication of what Jesus was saying; and knew the horrible implications that came with that statement.
The cross was part of the Roman custom. The Jewish people must’ve seen many of their kind crucified, and knew the message of the cross: don’t mess with the Romans. It was a public display of punishment. And everything about the crucifixion went against the Jewish law.
Deuteronomy 21:23 states “you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.”
Though Jesus may have been buried the same day, there were many who were left for days to strike terror in the hearts of the people of the empire. (They never really said how long the other criminals who were crucified with Jesus were left on the cross.)
There must’ve been a lot of restlessness, uncomfortable squirming and possibly those who even walked away from the teachings of Jesus when he told them to “take up their cross.”
Yet today, there’s a lot of neatness, comfort, peace, easiness associated with our sermons and the cross.
I once heard a pastor preach, “Jesus loves you, and he doesn’t want you to change at all.”
That seems to actually counter the message of taking up your cross.
The person that was sentenced to crucifixion was ordered to carry his own cross to the place of death.
“Taking up the cross” was not an easy teaching or rational, even. But it was scary. Dangerous.
It is often fear that keeps us from moving forward or participating in God’s kingdom.
“By resisting fear and pursuing kingdom practice even at the cost of death, the disciple contributes to shattering the powers’ reign of death in history.” (Chad Myers)
Taking up the cross is far more than bearing an inconvenience or an annoyance in your life.
It’s something that demands our all.
But yet, I find myself wanting to give less and less.