Like pieces of a puzzle coming together, I was struck by the vision of what it really looks like to take up our cross as Jesus commands.
We like to think of this concept as burdens we carry, or at least that’s how I’ve heard it coined in the Church. “We all have our crosses to bear” is too often exclaimed with the empathy of a mule…
It’s missing the mark altogether, and here’s why:
The cross was a symbol of His sacrifice for us. He left heaven, seated with God in all the wonder of His divinity, to be slain at the hands of humans for humanity.
The cross was His sacrifice, and Jesus calls us to take up our own crosses for His names sake…and follow Him.
Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. – Matthew 10:37-39 NIV
In other words:
Whoever is not willing to sacrifice their very lives and all the treasures therein that they hold dear, is not worthy of Jesus.
Does this sound awfully cruel?
It can’t be!
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down ones life for one’s friends. It’s not a cruel command, because it came from Love. The Perfect Love. The God in human flesh who loves us as His own, as His friends.
Love is sacrifice.
We are called to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds (Matthew 22:37). There’s got to be sacrifice to get there.
Jesus gave up everything for us, even the closeness of His Father’s presence in heaven. How can we truly follow after Him while clinging to other earthly treasures, including our loved ones here on earth?
In clinging to anything else but Jesus, we are missing the fulness—the abundance—of the One who loved us completely, now alive and at work in us as we trust Him and follow after Him.
In doing so, we declare that nothing else is as valuable as knowing Jesus and the gift of His sacrifice.
It’s interesting to me now, that when Jesus repeats this same idea in Matthew 16:24-25, His words are preceded by His interaction with Peter concerning the prediction of His death. Peter rebukes Jesus, appalled by the thought of such events taking place. But Jesus exclaims to Peter,
“Get behind me Satan. You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:23 NIV)
If we aren’t willing to deny ourselves—our dreams and desires, our knowledge and worldly wisdom, our valued treasures—sacrificing them and following after Jesus, we will ultimately lose all of it, including Jesus himself.
So. Deep breath.
- What does taking up your cross look like in your life?
- What human concerns are trumping Kingdom concerns?
- What sacrifices need to be made to truly walk in obedience to Jesus’s call?
Abundant life awaits. It’s promised. It was paid for on the cross, the sacrificial cross. Let’s be faithful to walk it out…