‘What cross can you take up?’
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34.)
The cross is a wonderful symbol with its horizontal and vertical beams. It is our symbol as Christians and represents us in the church. A congregation shows its love for God in worship, the vertical, but also love for each other, the horizontal.
That horizontal direction extends beyond the congregation in acts of love and charity, in mission, in spreading the word and love of God in evangelism. But that horizontal work and play is overlaid by the vertical, our love for God and, more importantly, God’s love for us.
I’ve seen other depictions with the cross as a bridge stretching over the gulf between God and humanity caused by our sin. There is an English proverb that says, “Crosses are ladders that lead to heaven.” It is a wonderful symbol. But, we must remember for the people at the time, the cross was a terrible symbol. It was the way the Romans used to crush any opposition. It was a terrible and gruesome image, like our electric chair or firing squad. It was a symbol of suffering and weakness. That’s why it was so jarring when Jesus brought it up here in Mark.
The disciples have dropped everything and are following Christ, have been there as he taught in his parables and stories, watched as he healed people, cast out demons, fed thousands, given sight to the blind, but they’ve sort of been blind themselves, not quite understanding all that Jesus was, and would be. Yet here, Jesus tells them to take up their cross and follow him. So, the cross isn’t only Jesus’ to bear, but you, he says to everyone, must take up your cross. And he explains further, in paradox, to gain your life, you must lose it. (Mark 8:35.)
So, what is your cross? Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. In these 40 days of preparation, we can contemplate not only the wonderful power of the cross of Christ, but the power inherent in taking up our own crosses too.
Opportunities are daily before us, times when we may give our lives sacrificially to acts of love, compassion, justice and peace, even in the face of the same imperial forces of sin and death that confronted Jesus.
What cross can you take up this day?