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June 29, 2013

Text:  “And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me.”  Mark 8:34

The symbol of the cross has many different connotations in our world. To some it is merely a piece of jewelry, to others a tool of magic,  and to others a sign of reproach. In Jesus’ day it was a criminal’s horrific death, a visible warning of the victim’s crimes, and a deterrent to crime to onlookers. The Romans, intending to shame the offender, paraded  him through the streets carrying his cross. The cross today has been trivialized, often robbed of its true significance. Remember Radar O’reilly from the TV series M*A*S*H?  In one comical situation he said, “We all have our bears to cross.” Believe me, the cross is not comical.

Jesus makes allusion to the cross in our text as a means of warning would-be disciples about the rigors of following him. This allusion to the cross is one of many frank warnings Jesus spoke of the cost of discipleship. Still, many responded to the gospel and were baptized because they looked to the eternal blessings of heaven.

What is expected of us as Christians/cross bearers?  Jesus is very candid about the costs of discipleship.

Right up front in this quote Jesus demands self denial. Jesus knows his creature, man. He knows that our biggest obstacle is self.  We are rife with self-preservation, self-satisfaction, and self-gratification. The teachings of Jesus teem with pleas for us to empty our hearts and minds of selfishness. By ridding ourselves of selfishness and filling ourselves with Jesus we will not be burdened by the weight of our own egos. We can bear our own burdens and the burdens of others as well.

In the Gospel of Luke the writer gives us the next element of cross bearing.  Luke includes the word daily in the text. (Luke 9:2)  Being a Christian is not an “on again ” and “off again” thing. You can’t just take off your Christian clothes on Sunday night and put on your “man-of-the-world” duds to go to work on Monday morning. Being a Christian is about faithfulness.  And faithfulness is about being a loyal servant of Christ  day after day. Is that difficult? Yes, but the reward surpasses the hardships.

Jesus expects disciples to assume  the responsibilities and persecutions that are entailed in becoming his servants. A disciple not only takes responsibility for his own dedication to Christ, but also for the well-being of others. He also assumes the willingness  to endure persecution on account of his association with Jesus. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  So said Paul in 2 Timothy 1:12

Further, Jesus instills in disciples a sense of obligation to bear his own cross. Each disciple shoulders his role as cross-bearer with a sense of oughtness toward serving the master, accepting the incumbency of difficulties and persecutions in that job description. He must endure these hardships because of the debt he owes Jesus.

Jesus was willing to leave heaven briefly in order to assume a long list of sufferings for our salvation. Paul places that onus on us. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…”  Philippians 2:5

  1. Larry permalink

    This is powerful! I find it so hard to do and even to understand what to do. He’s had a lot of work to do on me to get me close to understanding.

  2. Great commentary on Cross Bearing. It is not an easy thing, but if it were easy, Christ’s suffering would have not been necessary.

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