It was a momentous day for the Apostle Peter. He declared his faith that Jesus is the Messiah. The moment after, Jesus starts talking about His upcoming suffering, death and resurrection. All of a sudden, the momentous day for Peter takes a turn. He tells Jesus that he’ll never allow that to happen. Jesus rebukes Peter, calling him Satan. Jesus then explains in Mark 8:34, “Whoever wants to my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” So what exactly does Jesus mean when He talks about denying ourselves and taking up our cross to follow Him?
An Instrument of Death
Often times when Western Christians think of a cross, we think of something that is beautiful and glittery. Two thousand-years ago, the cross was an instrument of death reserved for criminals who were of non-Roman descent. The torture would slowly kill a person as they lifted their body painfully in the air to take a breath over and over again until they suffocated.
The modern-day equivalent to crucifixion is the lethal injection. The lethal injection is not worn by people, even though it is an object of death. Taking up your cross is the comparable to being ready for someone to give you a lethal injection.
Take Up Your Cross
When Jesus talked about taking up your cross, He was talking about having an all-out commitment to Him that might even lead to our deaths. When many people think of their personal cross, they most often think of physical infirmities they deal with. Yet this is not the context Jesus was talking about. Notice Jesus tells His disciples to “deny themselves.”
When Jesus tells us to take up our cross, He tells us to be willing to die for His sake, just as He was willing to die for our sake. When Jesus walked the road to Calvary, He did it willingly, not begrudgingly.
Taking up your cross may not mean losing your life, but it may mean putting your reputation on the line to face what’s right. When most Western Christians face persecution, they face their reputation as believers being attacked. These sources of persecution happen when we stand up for what’s right in a loving way and others get offended. This may include trying to share the Good News with a family member who doesn’t know the Lord.
Though taking up our cross may be difficult at times, it will be worth sharing the Good News when we see the fruits of our efforts in heaven.
Pastor Aaron Goeke-> Pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church
Pastor David Cartwright–> Head Pastor of Russell Memorial United Methodist Church