Luke 9:23 “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
When England was invaded by Hitler, Sir Winston Churchill called the nation to sacrifice saying, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. …. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour!”
Jesus challenges you and me to likewise be followers of Him, but what did He mean by taking up our cross daily? The people of Jesus’ day saw the cross as an equivalent to our ‘Electric Chair’ a method of execution for criminals.
There are various mentions of the Cross in the Bible.
There is ‘Jesus Cross’, ‘The Preaching of the Cross’ and then there is ‘The Disciple’s (your) Cross’. Let’s try and sort this out.
Jesus carried his own cross towards Calvary, and after collapsing, Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry it for Him (Luke 23:26). ‘The Preaching of the Cross’ was the theology of the New Testament Church, explaining the substitution sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, so we might receive eternal life and forgiveness from God (1 Cor. 1:18). Finally there is our cross, ‘The Disciple’s Cross’ (Luke 14:27).
What, you ask, is our Cross? Some people see it as: My husband, my wife, my kids, my boss, my arthritis, the weather! None of these is correct. We need to understand the setting in which the carrying of a cross occurs in the New Testament.
First, historically, the only time a man was seen carrying his cross, was on his way to die! The Romans required the criminal to carry the cross-beam to a place of execution. The route chosen was always through the most populated part of the city, in order to make the people aware of who was being punished. It was a public witness that this person was forced to make, identifying him with the crime he had committed.
Commitment to Jesus
Jesus explanation will help us understand what our cross is all about. First we do not pick up our cross until we have made a commitment to follow Jesus. In so doing we deny ourselves, laying aside our own agenda for the sake of obedience to His plan for our life. Then we publicly identify ourselves as following in the footsteps of Jesus; ‘coming after Him’. He was condemned to die for claiming he was the Son of God.
Our witness to the world is that we believe He is the Son of God, who died to pay for our sins, and that there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12). The cross you voluntarily take up, is to walk in the ‘Public Market Place’ of life, openly identifying yourself as one who is following Jesus, even to the point of death. In Mark 8:38 Jesus makes it clear that we are not to be ashamed of Him, or He will be ashamed of us in the Day of Judgment.
T. Austin-Sparks said, “The unalterable basis of an open heaven is a grave, and a crisis at which you come to an end of your own self-life. It is the crisis of real experiential identification with Christ in His death.”
Prayer: “Jesus, I now and here lay down my own self-pride, and commit to take up my cross, and let others know that I am unashamedly a follower of you. Amen.”