Carry Your Cross
If you hang around church people for any amount of time, you’ll end up hearing someone talk about carrying their cross. Generally, it will be in response to something that isn’t very cross like, at least not in the real sense of what it means to carry a cross.
Sure, the situation they reference will involve some kind of hardship. It may be that they’re dealing with a particularly difficult co-worker or family member. Perhaps the co-worker always smells like pastrami. Or, maybe the relative is constantly asking for money. Either way, we see situations that challenge us to be, at a very base level nice, as indications that we are living Christ-like lives and carrying our cross.
It’s an easy leap to make, though. Christ-likeness does call us to put up with our pesky co-worker or relative. It calls us to go out of our way to care for the needs of our friends and relatives. But I’m not sure that being nice, or maybe even being generally compassionate is the same as taking up our cross and following Jesus.
In this section of Mark, Jesus has been having a conversation with his disciples, those who have already decided to follow him in a pretty extreme way. He’s asked them who people say that he is. He’s asked them who they think he is. Poor Peter is the only one who offers the right answer, Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one of God.
It’s out of that conversation that Jesus sets about proclaiming his death and resurrection. I’m sure this caused some issues because as far as the disciples are concerned, the Lord’s anointed one doesn’t get killed. This time, Peter doesn’t have the right answer as he rebukes Jesus for even suggesting that the Messiah will end up as anything other than the king.
To highlight Peter’s error, Jesus goes ahead and explicitly tells us what being like him will look like. It looks like death. Not just death, but a radically self-sacrificial kind of death. The kind of death that is for the expressed purpose of bringing freedom and salvation to God’s enemies.
The whole thing is upside down. We don’t die for our enemies; we kill our enemies. We’ve got to take life to save our own. We save so we can live comfortably, so we can have a good quality of life. Jesus explodes this reality with his own.
No, if you want to be a true follower of Jesus, you’ve got to carry your cross. You’ve got to give it all away, not to the good folks of this world but to the bad ones. Carrying your cross is giving up your life so that your enemies might find their lives. If you want to have life, you’ve got to give it away.
The reason we water down cross carrying is because it’s so very difficult. Yet, it’s clearly what we’re called to do.
Prayer: Oh God, forgive us for trivializing the call to carry our cross and follow you. Grant us the strength to live and die like you, for the sake of our enemies. Amen.