Thursday, August 20, 2009

Taking Up My Cross

"Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me"

(Mark 8:34).

So often I hear this verse and look at it with the perspective of a “cross” being some hardship I’ll have to take on in order to follow Jesus. But this wasn’t written in my lifetime where the cross was a symbol of Jesus’ death for me. This wasn’t written in a time when people wore cross necklaces around their necks as a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for them. Or even as a sign to others that you’re a Christian. Mark didn’t write this in a time where the cross was a symbol on the tops of buildings or in front of churches or strategically worked in as the “t” in the logos of churches and youth groups.

Mark wrote this during the only time in history when the cross was the method of excruciating execution. This was the death for murderers, thieves, and rapists. This death was slow, painful, and full of suffering. This was the death of shame, mocking and degradation. Most importantly, it was death.

To follow Jesus was to sign up for death. Jesus knew that people who chose to follow Him wholeheartedly were going to be in trouble. Because the things they were signing up for did not match up with the popular and acceptable ideas of the day. Rome was in charge- and to follow Jesus was to say that Rome no longer had control over you. Rome- and Caesar- were no longer the highest power in your life. The religious leaders of the day wanted you to do things as they had done- to need them to lead into the presence of God. But to follow Jesus was to say that the old way was gone and the new way was come. To follow Jesus was to no longer need a priest to intercede for you- because Jesus was now our high priest who would intercede on your behalf.

To follow Jesus was to go against the things that were accepted.

To follow Jesus was to break laws that Rome had set.

To follow Jesus was to be an alien in your own land.

To follow Jesus was to be prepared for opposition.

To follow Jesus was to take up your cross. And be executed.

Just like Jesus took up His cross. And was executed. For us. For once. For all.

So, whoever will come after Jesus must be willing to lose their own face, accept the possibility of death, and follow Him.

Most of us cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose your life for choosing to follow Jesus. We’re the lucky ones. There are people all over the globe who cannot publicly proclaim their faith without the threat of persecution, jail, or even death. There is a Christian organization in place in China that is working to bring Chinese people on staff. Just like any ministry application, there are countless questions about your history, your faith, and your vision. The Chinese national application is very similar to the application that an American would fill out in order to go on staff with this ministry. The two applications differ by only one question. The last question on the Chinese application says “Are you willing to die in order to ensure that the Gospel is shared?”

Are you?

Am I?

Would I actually be willing to take up my cross and walk that same road as Jesus and die?

"Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me"

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