Summary: A look at Jesus’ teaching about the cross as he made his final trip to Jersualem on the Jericho road.
How to Build a Cross
"And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Mark 8:34 (KJV)
Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of sorrow I am about to drink?" "Oh yes," they replied, "we are able!" Mark 10:38
Intro: One of Jesus’ last stops on his final journey to Jerusalem…, was at a town east of the Jordon River known as Jericho. Large groups of people are traveling by way of the Jericho road to Jerusalem to commemorate their deliverance from Egyptian bondage to celebrate the Feast of the Passover.
Our scripture lessons for today from the Gospel of Mark…, give us two important and vivid teaching moments…, about the meanings of the crucifixion and the cross.
The Romans and people in Mark’s original audience…, knew what shouldering the cross meant. To take up the cross meant death on the cross. It was the Romans most common form of execution for dangerous criminals. A person carrying his own cross was a sure sign of surrender to the power and authority of the Romans.
But Jesus used this image of carrying a cross to illustrate the basic self giving and obedience required of all of his followers.
To build and carry a cross like Jesus is not easy. It means living day by day, living moment by moment, choosing to follow where God leads. Not our own self-satisfying actions and not our own self desire of direction.
When we celebrate Holy Communion we are doing more than just remembering the body and blood of Christ. We are saying that we are also able to face the trials…, Able to suffer the persecution, Able to endure the temptations, Able to live a profession of faith. Our life is purposed on the cross.
So today we are going to talk about taking up the cross. How do you build a cross and shoulder that cross in today’s world?
I am convinced that the Cross of Christ is built first upon an understanding of Fellowship.
I. The Cross is built on FELLOWSHIP.
Fellowship is people under construction. Whether it is a men’s group, a women’s group, a youth group, a Sunday school class…it is people coming together to shape lives…, to form a Christian community…, into the image of Christ.
Learn this lesson: Fellowship is never really about numbers.
Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Jesus was talking about a time when a crowd of strangers would become the body of the church. When people who barely know each other would become brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus knew that when two people agreed upon any one thing, and prayed about it together…, that there is a connection, a strength, a power.
I recently watched the Movie: “Moneyball” with Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill. “Moneyball” is based on a true life story of the 2002 season of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Billy Bean is the general manager of the Oakland “A.” Compared to the other baseball teams he has a very low budget to spend on hiring players. Every time he recruits a player who develops into a good player, another team offers him more money.
So Billy takes the help of an economic graduate from Yale named Peter. Peter applies a numerical and statistical analysis and picks a winning team based on the statistical averages instead of name recognition or personality qualities. Basically he puts together a baseball team that on paper should win the playoffs.
The problem is the team loses, and loses, and loses. Part of it is the conflict between Billy the team manager and the teams head coach and scouting coaches.
The turnaround in the movie starts when the individuals finally begin to gel into a real team. There is this unity…, this oneness…, with the coaches and the players. There is this “fitting together” and sense of belonging, that each person is where they are supposed to be. That is why in the church you often here me say, you are an important part of this church. “Every Member Matters.”
This common cause…, this bonding of believers…, was a major theme of Jesus teaching. Fellowship is from the Greek word (koinonia). Meaning: individual Christians who are in Christian communion with each other. Christian communion is an intimate, personal bond, formed by faith in the resurrected Christ.
It is strangers who start out thinking they have very little in common. But then the group grows from just being a crowd of people and turns into congregation of mature believers.
How do you build the cross? How do you build the people around you into the image of Christ? The Cross is built on Fellowship.