Jesus carried his cross. It was the burden he took for you and me. At the same time he asked each one of us to carry our cross too. What does this mean? It means that the more you carry your cross the more you walk close to Jesus.
Without the cross there cannot be any gospel. Jesus was clear about the fact that in this world we would have trouble. But inflicting trouble on oneself is not carrying the cross. Because nowhere in the Bible it has been asked of us to go and find trouble.
But when trouble does come we have a choice. We can choose to submit to it and carry it for Jesus. It is not easy. The human mind and body shuns away from it. But nearness to Jesus comes from carrying the cross. This is one meaning of what Paul said: “I want to know Christ . . . and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” It means to have the same attitude that Jesus had towards the cross.
The cross was never popular. That is why Peter tried to stop Jesus from going to the cross. He could not understand why his Master should suffer and die. But Jesus rebuked him in a very powerful language, “Get behind me Satan! . . . you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
But our life when passing through the valley of trouble helps us to have in mind the things of God. So God in His wisdom has kept the experience of the cross in our lives as a teaching tool to teach us the things of God.
Peter, for example, experienced the cross when Jesus looked straight at him after he had denied Jesus thrice. This broke his heart and he went outside and wept bitterly. This gave Peter brokenness of heart. But he was not forsaken. As King David wrote: a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart are sacrifices that God does not despise. Thus Peter too was restored by Jesus, soon after his resurrection.
The cross also calls for a denial of self. Whatever comforts of life, whatever luxuries, whatever food and drink that we can avoid helps us to deny ourselves. This does not mean choosing of poverty nor adopting a lifestyle which proclaims to others that you’re trying to be poor for God. But it means a careful avoidance of all that is not absolutely necessary.
Again the carrying of the cross has to be a daily experience. That is a bit tough. But why did Jesus ask us to daily carry our cross? See, the more we carry our cross the more we’re reminded of Jesus’ attitude towards the cross. It helps us to be near him at all times. So let us too, like Jesus’ mother and John the disciple, stand near his cross. And learn from Jesus who humbled himself even to the point of death on a cross.
Now look at a temptation that was hurled at Jesus while he was on the cross. “He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, `I am the Son of God.’ ” Perhaps we too might be mocked in similar fashion by our friends, neighbors and relatives. And the best response is not to speak anything in return. But wait for the resurrection that God has planned for you.
One more thing to note about the cross is Jesus’ statement: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” It is clear that Jesus was lifted up while he was nailed to cross for all to see. Likewise let us honor and glorify Jesus, and lift him high in the eyes of the world, by bearing our cross.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame . . . Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Again, the cross divides by drawing a clear line between friendship with God and friendship with the world. Friendship with the world is hatred towards God, so says James. John adds that “everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.” So also Paul decided not to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. He said that through this cross “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” This means that our friendship with the cross of Jesus and His precious blood shed on it is the only way to live a life pleasing to God. Then like Joseph, who left his cloak and ran out of the house, we will be able to flee from the source of temptation; even suffering loss and reputation in the process.
Again it is to be noted that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. But it is God’s power to us who are being saved.
Finally, if we want to follow Jesus we need to carry our cross. If not we have nothing to do with Jesus. For he himself said: “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
As the hymn writer beautifully put it:
And I’ll cherish the old rugged cross until my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross and exchange it some day for a crown
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true it’s shame and reproach gladly bear
Then he’ll call me some day to my home far away where his glory forever I’ll share