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Many like to wear a cross as jewelry. But when Jesus told His disciples to ‘take up his cross and follow me’ (Mark 8:34), it was not a popular choice. A cross was a symbol of crime, punishment and death.
The first person to literally obey this command was Simon of Cyrene. He was probably visiting Jerusalem for the Passover. As Jesus was on His way to Calvary, He was too weak to carry His own cross. So they forced Simon to carry it the rest of the way. You can read this event in Mark 15:21.
We, too, must carry Jesus’ cross in the world we live in. That’s why we were saved! We can’t repeat the atonement. That was something only Jesus could do – die for the sins of all mankind. But we are to carry the cross.
What does it mean to carry the cross of Jesus? It means to be so identified with Jesus, that we suffer what He suffered. People begin to treat us like they treated Jesus. People see Jesus in us and we feel honored.
There’s something unique about carrying a cross:
1- Carrying a cross is noticeable. You can’t hide a cross. It’s too big. And when you really follow Jesus in your daily life, people will see it. Some will appreciate your conviction and passion. Others will mock and hate you. But all will notice.
2- Carrying a cross is uncomfortable. Jesus’ cross was heavy and rough. The longer Simon carried it, the heavier it seemed to get. If we ‘yes’ to the cross, we say ‘yes’ to some uncomfortable situations – changes will need to be made in our conversations, decisions and lifestyles.
3- Carrying a cross is personal. This isn’t a group decision that might have personal implications. It’s a personal decision that leads to a difference in our relationships, friends and families. You can’t depend on your parents or friends – you’ve got to do it yourself.
4- Carrying a cross is public. The biggest decisions you make are made in public. The biggest decision you can make is following Jesus – to decide to carry His cross and all that it means to be identified with Him. It will impact your family, change the way you pursue your career, treat other people and even spend your time and money.
Jesus did not die to make this life easy for us or prosperous. He died to remove every obstacle to our everlasting joy. And He calls us to follow him in His sufferings because this life of joyful suffering for Jesus’ sake (Matt. 5:12) shows that He is more valuable than all earthly rewards that the world lives for (Matt. 13:44; 6:19-20).
If you follow Jesus only because He makes life easy for now, it will look to the world as though you really love what they love, and Jesus just happens to provide it for you. But if you suffer with Jesus in the pathway of love because He is your supreme treasure, then it will be apparent to the world that your heart is set on a different fortune than theirs. This is why Jesus demands that we deny ourselves and take up His cross and follow him.
How does the cross feel?
You can read some of my other articles about the words of Jesus on the cross: The Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross