When we think of taking up a cross, we often think of Mrs. Martha saying that her recent battle with the flu is her cross. Or perhaps, we think of musicians peddling snazzy shirts and necklaces of the symbol of death. But is this what Jesus meant when he commanded us in Mark 8:34 to “take up our cross.” Is taking up our cross nothing more than patiently bearing with life’s disappointment while engaging in some Christian marketing?
I think it is more. I think being a Christian, having true faith, and being a real follower entails more than the above definition. To take up our cross, we must be willing to radically and to practically live our life for Christ joyfully bearing all the reproaches, condemnation, and attacks of men.
To understand more about what taking up our cross means, we need to peak back a few verses. In Mark 8:31 Jesus says he will die on the cross because, “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the scribes.” Jesus’ death was a direct result of his obedience to God. Jesus was not talking about all the aches and pains that all experience in this life. He was talking about the persecution that we would face if we deny ourselves.
If we deny ourselves and pursue Christ, we too will suffer. As Jesus said in John 15:20:
Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
We may miss great job promotion because we desire to honor our marriage vows. We may not be invited to the family summer vacation because we want to obey God by avoiding drunkenness. And our kids may get benched because we value hearing the word of God preached more than the 3 spot in the order. Bearing a cross means that we embrace the cost of following Jesus. Bearing the cross means we are willing to be rejected and mocked by our peers. Bearing the cross means we are willing to live radically obedient lives even if we may lose our life in the process.
And Jesus’ initially hearers clearly grasped this reality. They saw the cross not as an ordinary part of life. They did not view it as an accessory. The saw it for what it was: a vile instrument of torture and death. The crowds had seen the Romans execute thousands upon thousands of Jews with the long nails and wooden planks. Jesus’ hears had watched their fellow Jews slowly die from affixation after days of agony. They knew Jesus was not calling them to endure the normal hardships of life well. They knew Jesus was calling them to deny themselves up to the point of death. They knew Jesus demanding their all.
Are we willing to radically follow Jesus? Are we willing to daily die to ourselves? Are we willing to sacrifice earthly comfort, our success, and our worldly hopes for the gospel? Are we persecuted for our faith?
Again, I do not think that every day of our life will be marked by suffering for the gospel. Our lives could be this way. We have many brothers and sisters who daily face death because of their commitment to Christ. The persecution we may come our sister, our fellow PTA members, or from a recreational softball team. The question is this: Do we face any persecution or is our life so in line with the world that we never stand out?