Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
The first time I heard this verse, it was when a person close to me apologised for losing his temper.
He told me, ‘I tend to lose my temper and patience, and that is my cross.’ Back then, I was too young to understand.
Many people assume that when Jesus said ‘cross’, He was referring to a burden in our lives – a certain circumstance or status. I wish to offer two interpretations to this –
1. Your cross refers to the thing that stumbles you
This refers to the thing that tempts you, your sinful weakness. For that person, it was losing his temper. He lost his patience easily when things frustrated him and He knew that that was not the way God wanted him to live. For another, it might be gambling. It is the thing that puts you to the cross. It is this thing that makes you sinful, guilty and deserving of the punishment for your sins.
When Jesus says that you are to take up your cross, it means that you are to carry this burden. You are to restrain yourself from doing the things that you love but know will hurt and disappoint God. Sometimes, the temptation and the urge doesn’t go away, which is why Jesus describes ‘carry’ in the present tense and not the past tense.
That is not to say that this is a bad thing. It does not mean that just because you are a Christian, all your worries and temptations will fade away. However, the reminder that you are struggling means that there is an inner conflict, an awareness of what is right and wrong, and an acknowledgement that sometimes the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
For me, I love to dance and started dancing ballet since I was six. I was never allowed to dance hip hop, which I loved and that made me want to dance even more. I love the beats, the moves and the loud music, and at one point in my teenage years, I was attracted to the environment in the clubs: music, dancing, rhythm – nothing like ballet. But I learned to understand that the environment in which this dancing took place was unhealthy and detrimental. That is my struggle, and in a sense, that is my cross.
And Jesus tells me ‘I know your struggles. I know your burden. I know that that is your cross, and I love you in spite of it. But to follow me, you have to lift that burden upon your shoulders and walk with it for the rest of your life. It’s not easy and it is not light, but please do it for me.’
Everybody’s cross is different. For some, drinking causes them to stumble (even if it’s a glass of beer) so that is their cross and to some, it isn’t.
2. Taking up of your cross is not so much about the cross, but the journey that you take with the cross on your shoulders
Jesus carried his cross on the streets on the way to the place of crucifixion. On his way, people ridiculed Him. People laughed, accused and mocked Him. ‘Who does He think He is?’ ‘Healer of many yet helpless in the face of His own death’
These were the very people who had welcomed Him with palm leaves. He had healed many but now that they were healed, they had forgotten who it was who had healed them. They rejected Him and put Him to His death.
You see, when we take up our own cross, we follow the same route that Jesus took. We have to go through that path of shame and self-denial. We have to be willing to live our life entirely for Him and face the embarrassment and mocking. We are called to be servants, the lowest of the lowest for those who have yet to hear about Him.
Have a blessed Tuesday,