Matthew records that shortly after Jesus miraculously fed thousands who had come to hear Him speak about the Kingdom of God, Jesus had a conversation with Peter about His identity. When asked, Peter mentions the crowds thought Jesus was either John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets from long ago. Jesus asked “what about you?” especially considering Peter and the other disciples had witnessed Jesus do some extraordinary things and say some remarkable things about God. Peter’s response to Jesus’ question was, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter witnessed Jesus heal the sick, saw Him challenge the religious leaders, and heard Him talk about God’s Kingdom in a way no one had ever heard before. If Peter was even the slightest bit confused as Jesus’ character it certainly would have occupied his thoughts when Jesus suggested that He would be arrested, persecuted and killed. This was unimaginable for Peter to comprehend and He even told Jesus that it would never happen. This resulted in Jesus’ rebuking Him. What may have been even more shocking was Jesus’ suggestion that if people wanted to be His followers they would have to take up their cross.
On Good Friday we reflect on Jesus’ death. We may see Hollywood’s depicted images of the flogging and the crucifixion or we may even read some historical accounts of this punishment. It is also possible that we read a newspaper headline and hear about present day Christians being crucified in the Middle East as groups try to force their ideologies into the region. We know crucifixion was a very cruel and painful method used by occupiers to keep people in line. Peter also knew what the cross implied firsthand, as he probably witnessed a country man tortured in this way. We, like Peter cannot help but wonder what Jesus meant when He said that to be His follower we are expected to take up the cross; daily as recorded by Luke.
Does it scare you to think about taking up the cross? Have you thought about what it means for us who are disciples to take it up daily? Do you wonder if it means to put yourself in harms way so as to spread the gospel? Do you think it implies that we, North American disciples, should be persecuted daily?
Will you consider what it means to deny self and take up the cross and follow Jesus? Do you consider denying self requires that we give up anything that we would want or seek that would hinder our doing the will of God? It does not mean that if we want something it is necessarily wrong. It means we must take our wants and desires down from our throne and place Jesus and His will as the governing power in our lives. Would you think about taking up the cross as meaning that we give our whole life to God, as Jesus gave His life for us? It could involve bearing burdens but in fact it is deeper than that. It is a total dedication of life and ensuring it is given to His service in anything and everything.
Please think about the signification of this whole weekend and don’t hide away from the reason it was required and the expectation our Saviour has placed on us. Like relay runners, the cross has been passed to us so that the good news and the hope of Jesus’ death and resurrection can be brought to our families, neighbours and friends. Think. Commit. Pray. Take up your cross.