"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. "He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:37-39)In his "Notes on the Bible", Albert Barnes gives us a historical perspective on the phrase "take up his cross":
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26)
'When persons were condemned to be crucified, a part of the sentence was that they should carry the cross on which they were to die to the place of execution. Thus, Christ carried his, until he fainted from fatigue and exhaustion.'Can you relate to the idea of losing your life? It is a somewhat alien idea for most of us who grew up in the me generation. Jesus speaks to us and says that we cannot live unless we die. He emphasizes the point by speaking of gaining the world and losing your soul - pretty sobering stuff. For me this idea of losing my life got practical when I was confronted by the loss of my first wife Ellen - enduring and experiencing loss of any kind engages us in the grieving process. When I think of grief I always think about my grief recovery group and about it's leader Chaplain Mike who told us that grieving is a proactive process - no one grieves passively. I vividly remember Mike's challenge to "step into your pain". So often we spend so much energy walking around our pain instead of walking through it. This is particularly true of emotional pain.
'To carry it was burdensome, was disgraceful, was trying to the feelings, was an addition to the punishment. So “to carry the cross” is a figurative expression, denoting that we must endure whatever is burdensome, or is trying, or is considered disgraceful, in following Christ."
I think that when Jesus says "take up his cross" He is speaking about stepping into painful areas of our lives. He is talking about believing in the midst of difficult circumstances - trusting and remaining in Him when everything in you is screaming run. Pain won't let you stay who you are - it will change you ... it will make you bitter or better. Here is Jesus' three step approach to losing your life:
- Deny Yourself: Thayer's Greek Dictionary defines the word translated 'deny' like this: "to lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests". This is the heart of the sacrificial life. No one ever sacrificed for another and held on to their own interests. This is our call - to lead lives of sacrifice for Jesus and for each other.
- Take Up Your Cross: Embracing hardship, difficulty and pain is often where the sacrificial life gets real. It can be said that sacrifice is not sacrifice unless it hurts. These are the times that try us and sift us. Jesus says of these things: "Pick them up and embrace them"!
- Follow Jesus: The path of our cross was modeled by our Lord in a profound way when He picked up His cross for us. When we follow Him we follow this path. When He picked up His cross He stepped into pain ... physical pain ... emotional pain ... spiritual pain. It was intentional. His pain bought our redemption and provided for our reconciliation.
Being an active believer is often not an easy road because it is the path of sacrifice ... it is the way of the cross ... it steps into pain. Next time you are tempted to take an easy route just follow Jesus' 3 steps instead. You will be better for it.