Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life.” (Matthew 16:24-25)
Unfortunately, I don’t hear Christians talking all that much about those concepts these days. I get frustrated. I feel like if anything, we, as followers of Jesus, find ways to make those words less edgy than they are.
Some classic lines I hear often:
- “Well, clearly Jesus just meant that we need to be willing to pick up our crosses to follow him.”
- “Cross can mean a bunch of things and it depends on your circumstances – it hardly ever means suffering.”
What does the cross stand for?
As Jesus said that line, he knew full well that a cross in the first century AD was a Roman torture device. It was a symbol of death and of persecution. So what does that mean for us? I think Jesus meant what He said. That if we want to be His followers, we must pick up our crosses and follow him. We must be prepared for the narrow way. Suffering. Discomfort. Persecution.
I don’t like the idea of those three things either, but when I signed up for this – when I agreed to follow Jesus – it must be at His word. If I want to be more like Jesus, shouldn’t I prepare for the type of life he lead, instead of trying to find any way out of it?