Did you know that Jesus mentioned wearing a cross? He talked about it before he was ever nailed on one. Maybe you knew this, but I just realized the timeline. First of all, Jesus knew that he would die on a cross. He tried to tell his disciples about it, and they got a bit angry. Peter, especially, said that he wasn't going to let that happen! Then, Jesus basically said it had to happen, and what's more, they weren't his disciples unless they took their own crosses and followed him to death (Matthew 16:21-26, Mark 8:31-38, Luke 9:22-26). Because that's what the cross means. Not an ornament, or even a symbol, but death.
We know, we are to die to sin. But is that enough? Just to not do the bad stuff? Can we keep on doing what we want, as long as we aren't breaking one of the ten commandments? Or does Christ require more of us?
There is more. That wasn't the only time Jesus talked about the cross. In Matthew, Chapter 10, we find Jesus sending off his twelve disciples. Before they went, he gave them some instructions. First, they were only to go to the Israelites, not the Gentiles. He gave them the words to say: "The kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (vs. 7). He gave them the power to heal and to cast out devils. He told them they would be persecuted, and if any house or city wouldn't listen to them, to leave and go to another one. He talks about the protection they have from his Father, and goes on to say that they should not expect peace, as even family members would take sides against each other. Then, he says it - "And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake will find it" (vs. 38-39).
In the book of Mark, we find the story of the "rich young ruler." The account, which begins in chapter 10, verse 17, has a man running after Jesus, asking him what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to follow the commandments. The man says he has done that since he was a youth. So Jesus drops the bomb: "One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me" (vs. 21). The man went away sad, because he had great possessions. He couldn't do it. It was too hard.
Unfortunately, this command came not only to his closest disciples and to rich people. In Luke, chapter 14, Jesus was hanging out with the Pharisees, doing a little question and answer session. In verse 25, he went out with a "great multitude." He starts trying to explain that nothing and no-one can be more important than him, if they want to be disciples. Even their closest family members. Even their own life! Then, it comes again: "And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (vs. 27). There you have it. CANNOT! There is no way. He goes on, and then in verse 33, "whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."
That multitude, dear friends, includes us. All of us. Any who want to follow Jesus. It can't be Jesus AND. It is Jesus ONLY. I'm not sure where this leaves me at the moment. I'm a bit worried. I'm pretty sure that carrying a real cross is not very comfortable. And the club is probably pretty small. One of those clubs where you walk in and realize there are only two other people, and there won't be any way to hide, you know? And you have the uncomfortable feeling that those other two people are going to know more about you by the end of the meeting than you really want anyone to? And you realize that this isn't a popular club, and other people will probably laugh at you for belonging to it? And you're going to have to wear a funny looking uniform...in public...all the time...and everyone will see you in it...and it's going to hurt...a lot.
You can walk away, like the rich man. And probably like most of that "multitude" that started following Jesus away from the Pharisee's house. You can go back to your life. No-one will know, and no-one would blame you. But where will your life end? No-one knows when, but we can have a good idea of where. Maybe you've accepted the view that Christians are supposed to have MORE. After all, we're children of God himself! But that's not what Jesus said. He said we had to GIVE IT ALL UP! All of it. All that isn't Christ. People. Possessions. Popularity. Do you know of someone who has less than you do? Then maybe you haven't given enough. I know I haven't. I'm comfortable. I don't hurt. I don't suffer. I don't carry a cross.
There, I said it. I am missing it. All of the things that I have spoken on this blog, or in song, or in Sunday school or church is fluff. I'm an impostor. I need to find a cross! And not the pretty metal kind that hangs on a dainty chain. A rough, heavy, splintery, dirty cross. The kind you carry until you're nailed to it. The kind that hurts. Pray for me!