Take Up Your Cross - Part 1
May 3, 2021
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
I remember as a child reading this verse and asking my paternal grandmother what ‘her cross’ in life was. She replied, “Your grandfather.” I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind when He said “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."
Taking up one’s cross is the willingness to die to self and live for Jesus. The cross was a means of execution. Crosses were designed to torture and kill people. It is estimated that under Roman rule, some 30,000 people (Jews and Gentiles) were executed on crosses in Palestine alone.
For Jesus to use this metaphor for a person’s salvation and progress through to spiritual maturity was a serious, definite, and clear call to total allegiance to Him as Lord and Savior. The Apostle Paul put it this way, (Galatians 2:20) I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Modern day Christianity wants to interpret ‘cross-bearing’ as a mystical, spiritual devotion to the Christian faith. I remember in the days of my collegiate career there were some well-meaning Christians who built full-size crosses to carry around on their shoulders as a witnessing tool. Arthur Blessitt was the most famous of these ‘cross-bearers’. Beginning in Los Angeles on Christmas Day, 1969, he is reported to have carried a full-size cross for 38,102 miles across every country and island group in the world. That goal was completed June 13, 2008.
While ‘cross-bearing’ or ‘cross-walking’ may be viewed as fanatical (some say it is an extreme example of love and devotion to Jesus), that’s not the point Jesus was making to the disciples. When they heard Jesus tell them to ‘take up your cross’, they immediately pictured in their mind a condemned man walking down the road, carrying his cross to the place of execution. A man who took up his cross was on a death march, carrying the very instrument that would kill him.
For the Christian today, taking up the cross means to be willing to engage in a personal death march from self that continues until the day that cross is exchanged for an eternal crown in glory. It means to commit totally to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and to continue to live under His Lordship every day until the day He calls us home. It means to suffer under the weight of persecution, insult, injustice, and disrespect from a world that is anti-Christ and anti-Christian.
“Lord Jesus, strengthen and encourage me to live each day under Your authority and not under the power and influence of the world. Remind me daily to take up my cross and to live for You who died selflessly for me. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”