“And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38).
After two millennia of veneration of the cross, it is easy for us to forget what the cross meant in first century Judea. It was a symbol of Roman power, the fate for any who dared to stand against Rome. It represented a horrifying way to die, perhaps the most cruel form of punishment and death ever invented by mankind.
For Jews crucifixion was even worse. Death on a tree meant being accursed (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). There was no glory in a cross, at least in the way that men consider glory.
These realities, therefore, were what came to mind to the disciples listening to Jesus. A cross meant humiliation, shame, being despised, reckoned as accursed and defiled. This was no “easy street.”
We also have to remember that at this point, Jesus has not yet been crucified. While Jesus no doubt knew what would eventually befall Him, we should not interpret this verse as meaning that Christians must be physically crucified. Such is not Jesus’ point.
Jesus is telling all those who would be His disciples that if they really want to be worthy of Jesus and eternal life, they must live a “crucified life.” They must bear the shame and humiliation that comes from serving Jesus. If they are considered cursed by man, so be it, if they may only win Christ.
Jesus’ disciples must renounce all that they have and, in a type, die in Him. It is no longer to be about oneself. It is now all about Christ.
“Taking the cross” is not a statement about wearing jewelry; it is a statement of the humiliation and sacrifice necessary to follow Jesus. Many are called to do so, yet precious few answer. What will it be?
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).
Ethan R. Longhenry