Summary: the cross is not just a symbol we look to or place our faith in, it is also a way of life for those who choose to follow Jesus. The word crux is defined as, “a vital, basic or pivotal point.” It’s the moment when everything changes,
Where One Life Ends and Another Begins
Lent is a season of preparation and reflection on our lives of following Jesus but more than anything, it is a journey to the cross. In the time of Jesus, the word for cross in Latin was, “crux” and was the ultimate symbol of shame and defeat. The cross was the Roman form of capitol punishment that sought not only to kill the person, but to strip them of every ounce of dignity on their way to death. They did this through public crucifixions on the most traveled road into Jerusalem so people would see the criminals being crucified and the agony and pain they suffered. The cross became so appalling that the word ‘crux’ was considered to be a cuss word and people refused to say it out loud. The cross was the worst thing imaginable until Jesus got ahold of it. Let’s get one thing clear, the Romans and Jews didn’t choose Jesus for the cross, Jesus chose the cross for himself. Two thousand years later, the cross is no longer a symbol of shame and humiliation but an enduring symbol of sacrificial love, grace and forgiveness.
But the cross is not just a symbol we look to or place our faith in, it is also a way of life for those who choose to follow Jesus. The word crux is defined as, “a vital, basic or pivotal point.” It’s the moment when everything changes, and it is the point of no return because when it happens, there is no going back. On a cosmic level, the cross is the vessel through which God’s redemptive love was revealed to the world, but on a personal level, the cross is this intersection where one life ends and another begins in Jesus.
For the next several weeks, as we journey through the season of Lent on our way to Easter, we’re going to be taking a look at the cross and the life that it calls us from and the life that it calls us to. The cross is difficult to grasp. In fact, it goes against our natural inclinations and almost everything that we’ve been taught our entire lives: to look out for number one, to call our own shots, to chase our dreams, to do whatever makes us happy. So when Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, we have a hard time with this. But we aren’t the only ones. Even Jesus’ earliest followers struggled with this. When Jesus talked about His impending death on a cross, His disciples balked. They tried to keep Him from going to Jerusalem, saying: "We don’t want you to die." This wasn’t their expectation of a Messiah or that of the Jews. A few years later, Paul wrote about the cross in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."
There are several things about choosing the cross. First, it is a voluntary decision. It was for Jesus and it is for us as well. While Jesus calls and challenges us to take up our cross, it is our choice. Taking up a cross and following Jesus is voluntary. It is a daily decision for Scripture calls us “to take up our cross daily.” Our journey to the cross is not a one-time event. We have to make ourselves available and choose to pay the price to pick up our cross and follow Jesus every day in every moment, in every act and in every decision. Third, it’s an act of love. This is why Jesus chose the cross, because of the Father’s love for His children and Jesus’ love for all humanity. Cross bearing is an act of love for Jesus as our Savior. It is a task that we undertake, a price that we pay, out of love for Him. For Jesus, it meant going to a cross to die because He loved us so much He wanted to save us from our sin. For us, it means reaching out to people who are unlovable and unlovely and who may never return the love. And yet, we are to keep on loving because that’s what Jesus did. It means denying and sacrificing. It means paying the price regardless of the hardships we must endure.
Fourth, the beginning of choosing the cross is death. The decision to follow Jesus isn’t a casual one; it is a crux, a vital, pivotal turning point because it means one life ends, the life you currently know, and another begins, life in Jesus. Nick Cunningham tells the story of being invited to dinner at a church member’s home. He pulled up to the house and in the front yard was a guy with shorts and no shirt on, using a makeshift flamethrower to set his grass on fire. He soon learned that a lot of people in South Carolina burn their lawns in the early spring because there is lot of sand and clay mixed in the soil. When you set your lawn on fire, you not only burn up all of the dead grass that collects down around the roots, but the ash from the burnt grass acts as fertilizer that leads to a healthier and greener lawn. So by killing your grass, you can actually help it. The death of one lawn creates the opportunity for the life of a new and healthier one. When you look at creation, there seems to be this life from death process built into it. We see it in the forest fires which covered the news all last Summer and Fall that though it destroys living trees and brush, the burnt ash then leads to a new, healthier forest to grow. We see it in the spiritual journey and the call to the cross as well. For we are to “die to sins and live for righteousness.” 1 Peter 2:24 In order to follow Jesus and experience the kind of life that only he has to offer, you can’t just add Him to your life, He has to become your life! We have to die to our former way of life to make room for Him to become our life. We have to let go and turn away from all of our old ways, so that we can say ‘yes’ to Him and the cross. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.