Take Up Your Cross
By: Rev. Greg Batson
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." - Mark 8:34
The cross is everywhere. You see crosses in obvious places like the church, but it goes much farther than that. Crosses are one of the most popular pieces of jewelry as well as tattoos today. The cross is a ubiquitous symbol in our culture today.
Yet despite its popularity, do we understand the meaning of the most important symbol of Christianity? After Peter proclaimed boldly that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus immediately followed up with a prediction that he would suffer, die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was a teaching that his disciples could not handle. Peter went so far as to rebuke Jesus for suggesting such a thing, prompting Jesus reply, "Get behind me Satan!"
One of my favorite theologians is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian, and teacher who came to prominence in the 1930's. He was also part of the resistance movement against Hitler and the rise of Nazism during that time. Bonhoeffer became part of the conspiracy that would try to assassinate Hitler to bring the war to an end. Their efforts were unsuccessful. Bonhoeffer was arrested, imprisoned, and executed in 1945 just before the liberation of Europe by the Allies.
One of Bonhoeffer's most famous works is a work called the Cost of Discipleship. In one of the chapters entitled "Discipleship and the Cross", Bonhoeffer reflects on this scripture in Mark and says this about discipleship and suffering:
God is a God who bears. The Son of God bore our flesh. He therefore bore the cross. He bore all our sins and attained reconciliation by his bearing. That is why disciples are called to bear what is put on them. …It is Jesus Christ himself whom disciples find when they take up their cross.1
The very identity of Christ is discovered only when we recognize and take up our own cross in life. That cross, that suffering, is different for each of us. We do not need to go out and seek a special cross for ourselves; there is already one, or more than one, present in your life. Whatever that cross is, Jesus calls us to confront it and to bear it in his name. He has shared human suffering with us, and he redeems us as we endure such suffering ourselves.
This Lenten season as you reflect upon your own personal suffering and trials, remember that Christ shares in that suffering with you. And in the end, the symbol of that suffering - the cross - will be transformed into a symbol of new life for us all.
1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, Works Vol. 4, ed. G. Kelly and J. Godsey (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001),