Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Taking up my cross... what does that even mean?

This morning on the bus I was reading Mark 8:34-36, the bit where Jesus talks about taking up your cross and following Him.
And I'd always thought that this meant that you need to give things up for Jesus. Which is probably true sometimes. But then something struck me.
Immediately preceding this saying, Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, and then rebukes Jesus for telling them He is going to die..
And immediately afterward, Jesus says "for whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."

Generally the things preceding and succeding a saying or story are significant in helping us to understand that saying.
Could it be that Jesus, in saying "take up your cross and follow me," is making a point about Peter's rebuke? Peter knew Jesus was the Christ - yet when Jesus started talking about His imminent death, Peter refused to accept it. Was Peter ashamed of Jesus' words? Maybe because Jesus' vision of what it meant to be "the Christ" was so radically different to anything that anyone might logically guess it meant.
Judea at that time was longing for a saviour who would defeat the oppressive Roman forces and free them, giving them back their land and their autonomy. So the idea of a Messiah who would be rejected and die would have been ridiculous. Even more ridiculous, Jesus was saying He was going to come back to life! I can understand why Peter would have been alarmed, appalled, and ashamed at such statements.
But Jesus says "you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man... take up your cross and follow me," and then instructs the disciples not to be ashamed of His words.

So often, we try to get around the sayings of Jesus and make them more palatable, because we are ashamed in this world of what He really says. I do this all the time. The resurrection is one - wouldn't it be far easier to say that it's all just a symbol, that it never literally happened? In a scientific age this is a great temptation for me.
What about Jesus' claim that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life? Postmodernism insists that there is no one truth. Everyone's way is equally valid.
One more - sin, and atonement. The idea that we need saving, to many people, is frankly insulting and arrogant.

And yet these are all things that Jesus tells us are true. We are not to be ashamed of them. Instead, we are to proudly uphold them.
And here is where the cross comes in. Because to put your name to ideas that are mocked and rejected by the world is indeed a cross. Don't forget that as well as death, the cross represents shame. Carrying your cross through the streets, in full view of everyone? You would be incredibly exposed. People would be throwing insults at you, heckling, and judging you for being a lesser person, an outcast. This is exactly what happens to people who lay claim to the words of Jesus.
I recently read an Inside Cover article in the West Australian mocking Kevin Rudd for believing in miracles. I say, good on him. He is not ashamed of our Lord Jesus. He's not ashamed to say he believes His words.

I work in a science centre and this idea is an incredible challenge to me. I believe that God created the world, I believe in miracles, I believe in a physical resurrection of all people who have ever existed at the end of time. Am I willing to stand up and not be ashamed of the teachings of Jesus? I fear that all too often I am ashamed, and this is something I must rectify, because if I want to follow Jesus, I can't be. I have to take up my cross.

God give us all the courage to be proud that we follow Jesus!


  1. p.s let me know your thoughts on this one... maybe I completely misinterpreted it, I don't know

  2. I think you're way right. Just today I was reasding Lee Camp's 'Mere Decipleship' and he talks about almost exactly the same thing:
    "...the call to bear the cross is not mere spiritual counsel that we must patiently bear the suffering bourne by all humanity, whether sickness or betrayal or failed dreams...Instead, Jesus would have us know that taking up the way of the kingdom means taking up a cross...we shall have to bear the brunt of the brutality and fear oof a yet unredeemed world"

    He then goes on to quote this awesome line from John Yoder:
    "The believer's cross must be, like his lord's, the price of his social is the of a path freely chosen after counting the cost"