What is one thing that every Christian has? We don’t really like it… But we can’t live or have eternal life without it?? You guessed it…
The Cross is actually the one ‘thing’ that makes us different from all other forms of religions or spiritualties. It’s the one way of life that assures us of our salvation, as Jesus himself says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). Look at other religions such as Buddhists, Hindu, Jewish, or New Age and while they had great spiritual masters according to their own right, nowhere will we find such statements be spoken of by them. For instance, a Zen Master is not going to tell his students to “embrace his cross…” and you won’t read it in a Fortune Cookie… But yet Jesus steps into the scene as a great teacher of religious truths and actually speaks with authority (Mark 1:21-28). This statement about picking up the cross should strike us as a very, very strange saying… at least if we were Romans or Jews living at the time of Jesus. Why? Because the cross was a form of legal execution and punishment for crimes that a person had committed. In the minds of Jews and Romans, the thought of a “Cross” would have instantly invoked torture, pain, humiliation, and death! But yet Jesus doesn’t sugar coat His message… “pick up your cross”, he says. Look at it this way… If I would say the word “electric chair” what would be the first thing you think of? Well, I doubt anyone would say that they think of a massage chair… No. Quite the opposite… We would think of the death penalty, torture, pain, and a sentencing of someone to death for a crime which they have been found legally guilty for! Bear with me here… What if Jesus would come to us today and say something like this, “If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him deny himself and take up his electric chair daily and follow me!” That would sound completely absurd and we would deem him a crazy lunatic or a mad man and I doubt we would follow Him!
Take it a step further… would we ever wear a piece of jewelry that was a golden electric chair?? No… that would be pretty morbid… but yet as Christians we wear a cross… an instrument of Roman torture! Why?? Because Jesus died on it and made the Cross an instrument of our redemption! For the Christian, we understand that the cross isn’t always a large piece of wood that we get nailed to, but often times it is more interior, more of how we accept physical sufferings, unexpected hard times, persecutions, and simply the day-to-day challenges we meet. Notice that Jesus speaks of the Cross as something that we pick up daily! This means that our Cross doesn’t have to be anything huge. It is simply an interior disposition, which says that everything that I go through today, I will do it through Him, with Him, and in Him! If a kid is working your last nerve… If you’re studying for a test or writing a paper… If you’re having difficulties in a relationship or with your marriage… If you’re suffering interiorly with stress or anxiety… If you lost your job or a loved one… If you’re suffering physically… whatever it may be, everywhere we turn, we meet the cross! And that should not be something that depresses us… at least if you are a Christian, it shouldn’t depress you! Why? Again, because when we embrace our Cross and unite it to the Cross of Jesus, then the very things that should crush us, discourage us, make us depressed and anxious, and even physically take our lives, will be transformed into the very thing that redeems us, our situation, our attitude, and our way of life!
Growing up in a Catholic family, I often heard the phrase, “Well, that’s just the cross that I have to carry.” But it always left me wondering… HOW DO I CARRY MY CROSS? Is it some sort of passive way of living? A kind of weakness that emasculates a man? Do I just get crushed by it? OR… do I somehow participate in carrying my cross?? Notice Jesus said carry your cross… not get crushed by your cross! So where do we learn how to “Carry our Cross”? Jesus gives us the answer when He says, “Follow Me.” We have learn the lessons that Jesus teaches us in the School of Prayer as He teaches us in the two most affective forms of teaching: words and actions. We have to begin this lesson by reflecting on how He carried His Cross and who He met along the way. While every part of Jesus’ journey to Calvary is worthy of our meditation, over the next few Blogs I will share with you my reflections on what I would consider to be the 5 most basic practical lessons that Jesus teaches us about how to carry our cross as He carries His Cross to Calvary… Stay tuned!!