And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39
So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. John 19:16-18 (Both English Standard Version)
We had another Good Friday-the day we commemorate Jesus’s death on the cross. As part of his execution, Jesus was ordered to carry his own cross down the streets of Jerusalem through mean jeering crowds, and out to the hill called Golgotha. It was a very humiliating segue into a more humiliating form of execution. Remember: these crowds were the same ones who cried, “Hosanna!” days earlier.
Jesus willingly and lovingly bore his cross for us as a painful, yet loving, response to the sins and powers of our world. As we reflect on Jesus’s act of love, how many of us are willing to “take up our crosses” and follow Jesus’s example, even if it means the loss of something dear like our lives? How many of us are willing to navigate the haters as we bear our crosses?
What Jesus was asking us was how far are we willing to follow his lead. How many of us today are willing to risk it all-even our very lives-to follow him? In Jesus’s time, following anyone other than those “approved” by the religious elites and the Roman Empire was punishable by death, and Jesus knew this. Yet Jesus knew that God will vindicate him in the end. Would we be willing to take up our cross, to bear the unbearable, to follow Jesus’s lead in life? Although we wouldn’t get literally crucified today, however would we risk being ostracized, criticized, mocked, gossiped about-to be figuratively “crucified”-all to live the Christ-life?
I’m not talking about quitting your job and traveling to far-flung countries to do missionary work; Lord knows we need mission work right here in our cities and towns. Nor, am I talking about going into preaching either. What I meant is living with the Christ as our example. We’re talking about a Jewish rabbi who could have easily became a successful Pharisee or Sadducee, yet who instead was so infused of the Divine that he: fed the hungry; healed the sick; pardoned an adulteress; reframed the life of a multi-married Samaritan woman; reached out to his society’s marginalized; broke race, class and gender barriers; spoke truth to power-religious and political; and even loved his enemies by healing a Roman Centurion’s servant. It was Jesus’s living out this life that ultimately got him on the cross; and Jesus knew this living would get him in trouble too.
Despite it all, the coolest thing was even though the powers that be crucified Jesus, they didn’t kill him. Oh yes, he died physically on the cross; however, his message, his words, his stories, his works-all that were the real Jesus the Christ didn’t die. In fact, he asked God to forgive his executioners and still ministered to the thief on the cross next to him, his mother Mary, and to John the disciple-all up to his last breath. Jesus took up his cross; and though being killed he still brought life into the lives of others.
What about us? Will we take up our crosses? Something for us to ponder on this weekend.