Summary: Second part of series on biblical discipleship.
"Three Laws of the Discipleship"
Pt. 2 -- Cross Bearing
Introduction: This morning we're going to take a look at the second aspect of discipleship that our Lord speaks about as He seeks to prepare his disciples for what is up ahead. If you recall last week we said that to be a disciple of Jesus you must deny yourself and that involved three things. You must surrender self to Christ, sacrifice self for Christ and submerge yourself in Christ. The next step in this process may be the most difficult of the three. How then do we take up the cross? Let's examine what Jesus said exactly and see if it holds any clues. First, you cannot separate cross bearing from:
I. The Reproach of the Cross
It is after all a cross, and we must never forget that. The cross was not a Jewish tradition but was introduced by the Romans as a method of execution for condemned criminals and that matters. At the time of our Lord's crucifixion the Jews had no authority to put anyone to death so they brought their grievances concerning Jesus to the attention of the Roman authorities, which in this case was a man named Pontius Pilate. A word about this man would probably be helpful at this point. He was the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from AD 26--36. He served under Emperor Tiberius, and is best known for presiding over the trial of Jesus and ordering his crucifixion. In all four gospel accounts, Pilate lobbies for Jesus to be spared his eventual fate of execution, and acquiesces only when the crowd refused to relent. He thus seeks to avoid personal responsibility for the death of Jesus. Most of us are familiar with the response of the crowd when they are given the option of releasing Jesus or Barabbas. The Bible tells us that the crowd chose the latter of the two and when asked what their desire was for Jesus they responded with "...let him be crucified." In the minds of the Jews Jesus was a blasphemer of God because he "...made himself equal with God..." and for them there would be no greater punishment than for him to be crucified. The word "...curse...cursed..." if often translated damned, so in the mind of the Jews Jesus could suffer no greater fate than to be hung on a "...tree." Paul writes as much in Galatians when he quotes from a passage in Deuteronomy.
Galatians 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, he shall be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:
His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God ;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
"That word "tree" there is used in the New Testament to refer to the cross of Christ. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Acts 30 and in the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts 39 that you just got through reading, you will find in those passages words like this: whom they slew, "Jesus, whom they slew and hanged on a tree." W. A. Criswell
What then should we take into account when we chose to "bear the cross?"
a. It is an individual choice
Notice that Jesus says that a man must bear "...his..." cross.
One commentary makes this note about cross bearing:
"The figure itself was borrowed from the practice which compelled criminals to bear their own cross to the place of execution. His cross: his own. All are not alike. There are different crosses for different disciples. The English proverb runs: "Every cross hath its inscription" - the name of him for whom it is shaped." Vincent's Word Studies
b. It is an identifying choice
Make no mistake we cannot bear the cross in a closet. Once you take up the cross you are identified with Jesus. When you cast your lot with him you will not be able to hide it.
Hebrews 13:12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
Matthew 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
Matthew 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.