Are you willing to take up your cross?
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.- (Mark 8:34)
For us, living after the crucifixion and resurrection, this text makes sense. We probably don’t even flinch. For those of us who are, perhaps, already thinking about our Good Friday liturgies and sermons, this text has clear meaning. And, I think it had the same clear meaning for Mark’s first audience: Just as Jesus bore his cross, the path of our lives of faith must be similar.
We have our cross to bear too. And when we bear that cross, we become more and more like the One who bore the cross on Calvary and, that is the point of a life of faith. Did the people standing around hearing Jesus start to talk about his death and suffering have any clue that he would die on such a horrific instrument of tortuous death? Could they even conceive that this teacher, rabbi, healer, preacher and Godly man would meet such a grisly end? Of course not.
And so, before they could even begin to wrap their heads around his death, Jesus tells THEM that they have to “take up their cross.” When Jesus says this here, a long time before Golgotha, these words would have had to sting and confuse the ears of his listeners. Take up our cross? What cross? Oh, you mean a cross of crucifixion? The instrument of death for a slave?
When you follow Jesus it means putting your own self-survival in the backseat. The first act of following Jesus is totally re-ordering your priorities and principles to the way of the Kingdom. It’s no longer about saving your life. Following Jesus means that your priority is to lose your life. and what better way to talk about that than the cross. On the cross you don’t just lose your life, but you do so in a wholly unfashionable way. You lose everything. Life. Honor. Pride. But, Jesus says that in such a loss everything is, in fact, gained.