Dr. Nkhinlakbou Ringkangmai
Today the cross is the most familiar symbol of the Christian faith. We preach about it, and even wear it as an item of jewelry. Jesus used the cross when he called His disciples to commitment. He warned His disciples that “anyone would come after me… must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Like 9:23)
The command to take up the cross has at least three primary occasions.
The First Call
The first was when Jesus sent the Twelve out to preach throughout the Judea. This initial mission was more limited in scope (Matt. 10:5-6) than the commission Jesus had given to the disciples after His resurrection. Some would accept the message willingly and become disciples themselves. Others would reject the gospel and oppose those who preached it.
It was in this context He warned that His disciples would find their closest relatives had become their worst enemies. “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”. (Matt. 10:37-38).
The Second Call
The second occasion was when Jesus called His followers to take up the cross is found in Luke 14:26-27. Although it seems to be similar in language with the one recorded in Matthew 10:38, but there are some significant differences. In Matthew 10:38 the charge is made to the Twelve. In Luke’s account, the saying is addressed to the large crowed that was following Jesus. The language of Luke’s is slightly stronger than Matthew. This doesn’t mean that we regard our parents, brother and sisters, or spouse as unimportant. We do continue to have obligation to love and respect them. The “hatred” spoken of this passage is by way of comparison.
The command to take up the cross is a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that takes over everything else. It’s a calls to cherish Christ more than any other human bond. As F.F. Bruce explained, “The interests of God’s kingdom must be paramount with the followers of Jesus, and everything else must take second place to them, even family ties.”
The Third Call
The third was when He revealed to the Twelve that He would go to Jerusalem and there be killed, (Matt. 16:22-23). Jesus was deeply trouble by Peter’s behavior and He continued to addressed the disciples and said, “if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). The Greek term “deny” means to renounce a claim on something. Here Jesus revealed that it would mean breaking of an intimate level. Being a disciple is a matter of denying self.
In the Roman world, the cross was an instrument of torture and execution. It was a symbol of shame (Hebrews 12:2). When Jesus called upon those who would follow Him to take up their own cross, He gave notice that the disciple’s burden would be one of self-denial and death to the old nature. Most of the apostles eventually suffered martyrdom as a result of their commitment to Christ, but the kind of cross-bearing that is commanded of all disciples is more enduring. It is not a single event but something that Christ calls us to practice every day.
There is another personal aspect to cross-bearing. It is the practice some of the theologians refer to as “mortification.” Mortification is the believer’s intentional effort to say no to the desires of the flesh of a daily basis.
If Jesus calls you to take up the cross today:
Would you still follow Jesus if it meant losing your closest friends?
Would you still follow Jesus if it meant alienation from your family?
Would you still follow Jesus if it meant the loss of your reputation?
Would you still follow Jesus if it meant losing your job?
Would you still follow Jesus if it meant losing your life?