What does it really mean to “take up your cross”? This is a question I had to ask myself recently after listening to a pod-cast by David Platt. For the vast majority of my life “taking up my cross” included wearing my church clothes, putting on my cross necklace, and making “honk if you love Jesus” signs while on church retreats. Every now and then I would even take my Bible to school and read it during SSR, just so everyone would know that I really was “taking up my cross”! I made carrying the cross look cool! But, when we look at how Jesus instructs us to “take up our cross”, cool isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind.
“And [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits him self? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
In this text Jesus starts off by saying if we want to follow him we have to deny ourselves. This literally means to die to one’s self. Jesus is essentially saying if you aren’t willing to give up everything that matters to you, then you are not fit to follow him. Next, Jesus tells his disciples to “take up his cross daily and follow me”. This is a huge command from Christ. He isn’t telling us to simply put on our “I love Jesus” or “I love my church” shirt. He is calling us to do something much more radical than that.
In the day and age of Christ, if you were to see someone carrying a cross, then you were in essence looking at a dead man walking. Someone who was carrying a cross was sentenced to death, they were a goner! Not only that, with a cross came an extreme amount of ridicule and disgrace. Christ was calling them to be rejected and possibly killed! He was not calling them to do something that would be easy. He was asking them to take on the appearance of a dead man walking!
Skip ahead a couple verses to verse 26 and you see that not only is Christ calling us to take on this radical teaching, but he is also calling us to be proud of if! He says, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed…” Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not so sure how comfortable I would be with knowing that Jesus Christ was ashamed of me (especially since my faith in him is my golden ticket). All joking aside, this is huge that Jesus would not only tell us to take on ridicule and rejection, but to also take pride in the mockery that we face!
With all of the being said, I urge you to truly take up your cross. Die to yourself and your desires, deny their very existence. Follow Jesus despite the ridicule and rejection. Be proud of your relationship with Christ, even when someone is mocking you for it. Through this may you grow stronger in your walk with the Lord, and may you begin to see the glory of Christ even more clearly.