1999-08-23 - Taking up the Cross
Mark 8:34 And He summoned the multitude with His disciples and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
We see the same sentiments as those found above in Mark also given in Matthew and Luke. Matthew 16:24, " … If anyone wishes to come after Me, let deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." In Luke we have the similar words, but with an added understanding. Luke 9:23 says, " … If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
Matthew and Luke also have additional information provided for the follower of Christ regarding this duty of taking up the cross. In Matthew 10:38, Christ is rather blunt when he says, "And he who does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me." Lastly, in Luke 14:27, we have a most difficult saying of Christ, "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." Therefore we can conclude that no one is exempted from the duty of taking up the cross of Christ. It seems that no one can even be a Christian without taking up the cross.
The term cross can be a figurative term that speaks of the shame, troubles, and afflictions that being a follow of Christ brings. The sufferings of Christ, taken in general, are called His cross (Ephesians 2:16, Hebrews 12:2). The doctrine of the sufferings of Christ are also called His cross, Galatians 5:11, 6:12. See also, Philippians 3:18, 1 Corinthians 1:18.
Many feel they suffer under numerous crosses in this life. Some feel that their struggles with money are a cross they are required to bear. Others feel that their job, physical limitations, family situations, church situations, or any other number of struggles in this life are the crosses they must bear.
These are not always what it means to bear a cross for Christ. In many cases the problems we experience in this life are the result of poor decisions we have made in the past or relationships that are dwelling in a sinful and fallen world. A cross is not a cross, taken up in the service of Christ, when we have brought those problems upon ourselves. A cross taken up in service to Christ is that difficulty, shame or problem that lies in our way toward true obedience and service to Christ. These are those things where we cannot serve Christ perfectly, but in doing so, we must bear this or that cross.
These crosses are those that might, in service to Christ, cause undue detriment or damage to us. For example, many Christian business owners, seeking to honor the Lord's day, do not open for business on Sunday. They bear this cross in their service to Christ because their understanding of His Word means they must honor this day upon which Christ arose. This, it seems, is more what it means to take up the cross, than many common understandings of the term in the church today.
This is no attempt to downplay the struggles that many Christians have or to say that they are not real struggles and real problems. Christ cares for His children and He cares for our problems, even the ones we have created ourselves. But in taking up our cross and following Christ we are doing more than dealing with our problems. We are engaged in active service. We are undergoing, as part of our service to Christ, that which the world says we need not.
"Christ's cross is the sweetest burden that ever I bore: it is such a burden as wings are to a bird, or sails are to a ship." Samuel Rutherford
Soli Deo Gloria,