Summary: This sermon provokes us into thinking about how we bear our cross, and whether we live in the world or not of it, drawing on some of St Pauls teachings to the early churches

In the name of the Father, son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

There is a story told of a man who was struggling to carry his cross, he complained and moaned at anyone that he came in contact with. Eventually the Lord heard his complaints and paid him a visit. My son, I have heard your pain, and I want to offer you the chance to change your cross.

Inside this room, there are others who are bearing their crosses, please take your cross inside, and you may swap your cross for anyone else’s. The man’s spirits were raised by this offer, and gladly headed off into the room. A few hours passed, and the man finally returned, but instead of having a different cross, he was still carrying the cross that had burdened him for so long.

My Son, God said, you still have your cross, you didn’t like the ones that you saw? The man looked at God and said, no, when I saw the burdens that others were carrying, I realised that this cross is mine, together with all it represents to me, its personal and unique to me, just like the ones that the people in that room are carrying. Thank you but I need to keep my own cross.

‘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, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’

Before we look at what Christ is talking about here, I think it’s important that we look at what He is not saying.

Readers of this scripture may be thinking to themselves that this allusion to carrying the cross is to do with our sin and that picking up our cross and carrying it ourselves is associated with the way that Christ bore the weight of sin on his back as he went to crucifixion on Calvary.

If we were to follow that train of thought then it would be fair and logical to assume that His reference to carrying our cross signifies the sins that we have committed and this causes contradiction, in that it assumes that we have not come to a place of grace through His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for all of us.

But this isn’t what is being said here, in fact what Christ is teaching us is far deeper and of great importance to us. Notice how at the beginning of the Gospel today we see Christ questioning His disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ Peter answers on behalf of the group, ‘You are the Messiah’. The disciples by this point had journeyed with Him long enough to recognise that He was the one that had been prophesied about so long ago by Isaiah.

As Christ continues, he begins to unfold what is going to happen, and how it will happen. The disciples aren’t happy, because what He is talking about is going to set them on a collision course with the Jewish authorities, and they recognise its going to turn violent, which in turn has probably got them thinking.

I cant imagine how the disciples would have felt, so far they had been in awe of what Christ had accomplished, marvelled at his words, wondered at the miracles and healings he had performed, but now they were being shown a far darker side to what was going to happen in the future, and Peter again stepped out and tried to tell Him it wasn’t right, but ended up being rebuked for not accepting the course they were on.

‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ Words which echo in our ears as sounding familiar, when Christ was being tempted in the wilderness to give up his mission, Satan tried to persuade him to take all the trappings of the world, to ignore God’s plan and instead bow down and succumb to worldly things.

Peter would not have known this, but no doubt Christ would have been keenly aware that while Peter’s intentions were no doubt to try and save Christ from those things which he had described, anything which took him off the path that he was on, would mean that the work that He had yet to do would be compromised, and salvation for us all would have been lost.

This brings us to the words we heard at the beginning, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’ We can now see with more clarity what Christ is talking about, it’s the cost of our discipleship.

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