Matthew 16:24-26, Mark 8:34-37, and Luke 9:23-25 (NRSV)
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
When we decide to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow Him,
we become nothing more than fans.- Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan
The cross that Jesus invites us to take up is not an abstract thought, nor does it denote religious faith, no matter how devout. The cross in Jesus’ day was not a logo or a metaphor. It was not a kneeling bench on which believers felt holy. The cross was an instrument of pain, shame, absolute loss and death. It was a real weapon; the only way to “take it up” was to become its victim. What can it mean to “take up our cross” but to suffer it? It means to be in solidarity with those who are oppressed, to be one with those who are condemned, to carry in your heart the sorrow of those who suffer, and to pray and to act on their behalf. It is to live for the sake of the least of your sisters and brothers. To take up your cross is to let go of your ego, your willfulness and your desires, and be led wholly by God’s self-giving passion for the world, especially for the poor and the powerless. It is to be willing to suffer for the sake of the world, to work and even endure loss for the sake of the community’s gain. You do this not out of duty, or belief that you ought to be miserable so others can be happy, but you do it out of joy, pure joy in the gift of life, and pure love. To take up your cross is to give your life for the life of the world because that is your delight, trusting that as you empty yourself of your one small, lone life for the sake of compassion, the One who gives life gives it to you abundantly—infinitely and eternally, and still full of joy, overflowing with joy, radiant with divine, immortal joy. – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Take Up Your Cross (2012)
Jesus invited people to “follow” him in bearing the mystery of human death and resurrection. Those who agree to carry and love what God loves, which is both the good and the bad of human history, and to pay the price for its reconciliation within themselves—these are the followers of Jesus—the leaven, the salt, the remnant, the mustard seed that God can use to transform the world. The cross is the dramatic image of what it takes to be such a usable one for God. These few are the critical mass that keeps the world from its path toward greed, violence, and self-destruction. God is calling everyone and everything to God’s self (Gen. 8:16-17, Eph. 1:9-10, Col. 1:15-20, Acts 3:21, 1 Tim. 2:4, John 3:17). But God still needs some instruments and images who are willing to be “conformed to the pattern of his death” and transformed into the power of his resurrection (Phil. 3:10). They illuminate the path because they allow themselves to be used. – Richard Rohr
Galatians 5:24 (NRSV)
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Galatians 2:19b-20 (NRSV)
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
He who seeks not the cross of Christ,
seeks not the glory of Christ.
– John of the Cross
Click Here for a powerful prayer entitled Taking Up My Cross by Steve Garnaas Holmes.
All God’s plans have the mark of the cross on them,
and all His plans have death to self in them.
– E. M. Bounds
Take Up Your Cross (2014) by Steve Garnaas Holmes
The Christian faith is not a set of opinions about Jesus.
It is a life of following him, practicing his self-giving love.
To follow Jesus is to enter the suffering of the world.
The cross is not an annoyance, a burden, an injustice.
Your “cross to bear” is not the overbearing aunt.
It is the fear of the abused, the tears of the deported,
the rage of the dismissed, the weariness of the exploited,
the despair of the condemned, the loneliness of the forgotten.
It is bearing in your heart—perhaps even in your flesh—
the suffering of others, and their infinite worth,
to act for the sake of grace in their lives,
to be in solidarity with the poor for the sake of justice.
It is to embody God’s grace amidst human failings.
It is your grateful choice to suffer for the sake of love.
Lay down the sword of doctrines and arguments,
the shield of your separate self, your privileged security,
and take up the the cross of Christ,
the risk and vulnerability of the Gospel,
the courage to confront injustice and embody healing,
the love of God, weak, naked and tender in this world,
and more powerful than a hundred armies.
The wreath featured in today’s photos was designed by Ann Voskamp‘s son, Caleb. He and his siblings make the wreaths and Ann takes the photos. They use the wreath in their home throughout the year for family devotions, especially during the season of Advent in preparation for Christmas, the season of Lent in preparation for Easter, and for the great fifty days of the Easter Season. Click the following links for how they use it during Advent, Lent, and Easter and for ordering information.
For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.