Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
Earlier in my life, I would look at this verse and think “I don’t really have to carry a cross do I? Christ was already crucified for me, I don’t need crucifixion” That was my problem, I was afraid of crucifixion. I didn’t see it for what it was. I didn’t see why or how carrying a cross was meant for my good. I’ve seen numerous movies portraying the passion of the Christ, crosses are scary, ugly, painful devices. And, Christ’s cross has always seemed particularly ugly because of the beauty that it put to death.
Thank Him that he didn’t say “…he must take up My cross…”, He said, “…he must take up his cross…” Not one of us is worthy enough to take up His cross. Only the Son of the Most High God, Emmanuel, was worthy to take up that cross. He only asks us to carry our own cross, not His, and not anyone else’s. And, He says it is a requirement; it is not an option. After all, Christ is not asking us to do anything more than He Himself did, and indeed, the very purpose for which he became Emmanuel. His very real, sacrificial, painful, agonizing, cruel (and these adjectives barely scratch the surface), crucifixion was absolutely necessary for me to be able to take up a my cross and follow Him.
There are so many good points in this one scripture… not taking up His cross… not taking up anyone else’s cross. Both of those could be the topic of books. But, the one I want to focus on is the necessity of taking up my own cross. I said earlier, when I was younger, that thought really carried fear with it. That fear rose out of not really understanding what it meant to carry my cross or why it was necessary.
Every sinful part of me, past, present, and future was crucified with Christ on His cross, the cross that He carried, the cross He was nailed to for my sake. So why must I take up my cross if all those things are gone? Multiple reasons. First, if I am carrying my cross, it is a constant reminder of what He did for me in His work on His cross. If I am carrying my cross, how can I help but not also have His cross ever before me, a constant reminder of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ.
Second, If I am carrying my cross, I am not able to pick back-up the sin, guilt, and shame that I laid at the foot of His cross when I accepted His saving grace through faith. In order for me to pick up any of those things, I would have to drop my cross — always a bad choice. If I lay down my cross, I am opening myself up to picking up things that are not meant for my good, but to separate me from God (thank Him that nothing can separate us from His love — Romans 8:39). The sin which I can pick up with my hands empty is harmful even though it is attractive to my flesh. But the cross, that to my flesh is repulsive, is meant to keep me from harm, and keep my in the sight of my God.
Next, if I am carrying my cross, I am walking in obedience to Christ. As I mentioned above, taking up my cross is not optional. It is a requirement. Christ didn’t say, “if it feels good, take up your cross…” or, “take up your cross, if you are in the mood today…” Christ commanded “take up your cross”. Carrying my cross is a must, it is required to walk in obedience.
The final reason I must take up my cross is in the final words of the verse itself, “and follow Me.” It is a requirement before I can follow my Savior. If I claim to be a Christian, a “little Christ”, I must be a follower of Christ. And, to be a follower, I must be carrying my cross. Carrying my cross only serves to make me more like Christ each day. It is a daily task that can’t be avoided. So my cross, the one that He calls me to carry is no longer a thing of ugly fear, but it is a building block for my faith. Though sometimes difficult to carry (and yes, sometimes I drop it and pick it up again – or get it handed back to me), my cross is a thing of joy meant for my good. Becoming less me and more Christ, I get to remember the joy before me, and carrying my cross is not such a daunting task. It is a task I am able to perform through grace of God in Christ Jesus.
looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Lord, You are holy, worthy of all worship! I thank you for keeping Your heart on the joy that was set before and enduring the cross for my sake. I thank You for carrying my sin, past, present, and future, away from me through Your work on Your cross. Continue to teach me that carrying my cross, while a requirement, is a privilege and honor because in so doing, it makes me more like You. Forgive me for the times I drop my cross, and in Your patience, place it back in my hands when I am too stubborn to pick it back up on my own. You are beautiful, Lord. Amen.