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Before anyone knew that Jesus would end up being nailed to a Roman cross, he was already using the
cross as a symbol in his call to discipleship, If anyone comes after me let him take up his cross and
follow me Im certain that when Jesus cast discipleship in these terms he wasnt thinking about the
jewelry or tattoos of 21st century USAmerican consumer culture.
I have wondered what those who heard him speak these words thought of his call. Did they have any
idea how literally Jesus would fulfill his own words? We know of a few occasions where Jesus used cross
bearing as a way to understand what he meant by discipleship. You will find this language in Matthew
10:37-39 in the context of giving instructions to the disciples for their first mission trip to Judea.
"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves
his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who 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."
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sistersyes, even his own lifehe cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Again in Matthew 16:24 we hear Jesus say to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must
deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. in the context of his own near future arrest (paralleled
in Luke 9:23-27 and Mark 8:34-9:1).
In using the cross and the idea of cross bearing, Jesus is taking a scene that many of those who heard
him must have personally witnessed since Roman capital punishment was a public event complete with
parading the convict through the streets carrying his own cross to the place of crucifixion. In the real
world setting of those who heard Jesus, these words, Take up your cross and follow me, must have
painted a startlingly graphic picture.
Take some time to read the context and consider what it is that Jesus is calling us to. As you do,
consider the idea of endingsfor certainly at the very least, whatever else the cross meant, it certainly
spoke loudly of endings! But on the other hand, dont forget Easter! Though the cross speaks of
endings, the cross of Christ has now become the gateway to life.
Symbols are powerful ways to communicate. Jesus used the cross as a way to communicate what being his disciple meant. Paul, latter, develops some of the meaning of the cross and we find that the cross of Christ was central to the message of the gospel. In 1 Corinthians he writes,
Now bringing you back...
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