Take Up Your Cross
This season of Lent is a time for us to reflect on the life of Jesus, leading to His foretold death on the Cross and His resurrection from the grave. Personally, the very aspect that Jesus knew he was going to die, shared with his followers, and still chose to go to the Cross anyway is one aspect of the story that I often forget to dwell on.
“He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the law and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”
Mark 8:31-32 NIV
Jesus told His disciples this plainly, to help them understand what was in store for their King. Understandably, the disciples thought that Jesus had lost His mind. All their lives, they had connected the Messiah with a powerful king who would save His people from their oppressors and restore them to glory. So the idea of a suffering Messiah made no sense to anyone. Peter's protest expressed the thoughts not only of the disciples but of someone who truly loved Jesus. He could not understand why his King would need to die when he could so easily take another path. Peter’s response was one of "Come on, Jesus, you have all the power in the world. What do you mean... suffer!? We won't let that happen to you.”
“But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. 'Get behind me, Satan!' he said. 'You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.'"
Mark 8:33 NIV
Stop. Go back and read that again.
Jesus became abrupt when Peter tried to talk some sense into him, as He knew he needed to squash this sin.
Jesus recognized the tempter's voice in Peter from His time in the desert. He saw the temptation from the Devil. Jesus did not want to suffer and die. Yet Jesus knew He must go and pay the ultimate price. Just as Jesus obviously knew of his eventual death, He knew, just like Peter, that He possessed the strength and power from God to bring down the angelic army on any enemy and easily could have avoided the pain, suffering, and death of the Cross.
Then, Jesus takes this conversation one step further, responding to the disciples and the surrounding crowd. Here, He calls on everyone who follows Him to take up their cross, following the example He would ultimately set with His death on the Cross.
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Mark 8:34-37 NIV
Sometimes an opportunity to stand up for justice and peace comes our way and we shy away. We are willing to believe the temptation to avoid the trouble and take the easier path, or we say to ourselves, “someone else will help, and I simply am not capable.” We know these lies, and as we are called disciples of God, this life comes at a cost. We are called to give up our desires and instead take up our own cross, serving God and spreading His Gospel. We must not shy away from the challenges before us but rather go out into the world and proclaim the gospel in our actions and words.
As you read these words today, especially in this season of Lent, how can you put Christ first in your life? How can you further dedicate yourself to putting aside your desires and instead pursuing a life focused on Him?