Summary: What does "take up your cross" mean and what does it not mean? (Material from: http://www.firstbaptistbuda.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/FBC-Buda-Bible-Study-3.7.12.Cross-Bearing.Dangerous-Followship-3.pdf; and Bob Tinsky's book, A Christian Is)
Sing these verses:
Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free? No, there’s a cross for everyone, and there’s a cross for me.
The consecrated cross I’ll bear, Till death shall set me free, And then go home my crown to wear, for there’s a crown for me.
Read Luke 14:25-27- Focused on these verses a couple of times lately. Not the main verses for tonight but we see here that Jesus clearly identifies being a disciple with carrying the cross. A Christian Is... A Disciple (from this morning)
Read Luke 9:23- This is our main verse for tonight. Want to focus on take up his cross.
Richard Martin has a ministry of literally carrying a cross around the country. He walks the roads carrying a cross. Some visit with him and talk about Jesus. Others are hostile and some have broken the cross into pieces. Is this what Jesus wants from us? What exactly is it that Jesus is calling his disciples to do? What does He mean for us to “take up our cross.” The key to this passage is to understand the meaning of “take up his cross.”
Thesis: What take up one’s cross does not mean, then talk about what this phrase actually means.
Take up one’s cross does not mean...
Just a burden to put up with... We use this idea by saying things like, “Well, that is just my cross to bear.” What do we mean? A burden or trial one must put up with, such as Alzheimer’s can be called a cross to bear for a whole family, or in a less serious way, mowing a huge lawn once a week is my boys cross to bear. Life is full of cares and burdens and being a Christian does not exempt us from them. Remember what Jesus said, ““I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble (burdens, cares, trials). But take heart! I have overcome the world.”” John 16:33. Also, “Your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45, NIV. Burdens, difficulties, trials, troubles, cares come to everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike. Illogical for Jesus to say it will cost us having to carry the burdens we are already going to carry anyway in this life to be his disciple.
Just dealing with difficult people... Maybe a work associate that is hard to put up with, or a spouse or family member that is abusive or struggles with a problem that affects the whole family, or maybe someone that is extremely hard to love that is in our lives. As Christians there are people who are difficult to love even though we are called to love them. In this sense it is true that sometimes bearing with other people may feel like a type of cross we are called to bear. But remember the context of these verses. Jesus is speaking of being his disciples, really following him and the cost of following Him. In the context it’s a given that a genuine disciple would have a love and compassion toward other people. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2, NIV. “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13, NIV. The idea of cross bearing having something to do with putting up with difficult people is not exactly what Jesus had in mind when he called us to “take up our cross.” Everyone deals with troublesome people.
Just dealing with tough circumstances- This is a common way of understanding “bearing one’s cross.” Barbara Philbrook’s poem- It’s Your Cross to Bear”- It’s your cross to bear and I can’t carry the burden for you, as much as I wish that is what I could do- The idea again is that “bearing the cross is carrying a burden.” While we are not heretics for saying and believing things like this, this is biblically incorrect. The reason I have spent time on this is because we must resist these definitions of bearing one’s cross if we are to understand Jesus’ powerful teaching in this passage.
What does “take up one’s cross” actually mean
First, we must talk about what a cross meant to the first disciples of Jesus.
A cross is an instrument of torture and death. We think of the cross as a beautiful ornament, as beautiful jewelry. This is far from how the people in Jesus’ day saw the cross. Like we have an electric chair as jewelry or a hypodermic needle as a piece of art, No! The cross in Jesus’ day was an instrument of torture and execution, pure and simple.