The old rugged cross.
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light.
These familiar words found in our beloved hymnals bring comfort to those of us who are Christians. But I wonder, can the familiarity of these words cause us to forget the magnitude of what happened on that Good Friday? And more importantly, does it inadvertently cause us to downplay what our role as a follower of Christ actually entails?
Jesus told his disciples that in order to be a true disciple they must be willing to do three things: deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. (Matthew 16:24)
Again, all of this feels very familiar and comfortable to us as 21st century Christians, but imagine living in the 1st century as a disciple. You have left EVERYTHING (your family, your fishing business, your comfortable bed) to follow this controversial Jesus from town to town. So far, it’s all working out pretty well because He’s healing the sick, turning a boy’s lunchbox into a catered party for 5000, and don’t forget that time at the wedding when water was turned into the best wine anyone had ever tasted.
However, now Jesus is giving some radical instructions, first being to deny ourselves. Which is okay with us because we’ve already stepped out in faith, leaving the comforts of our homes.
But the music stops when we hear “take up our cross.” Wait a minute. The cross is for criminals and we are not criminals, nor is Jesus. He is the long-awaited Messiah; the Anointed One who has come to reign on David’s throne. Why in the world is He talking about taking up a cross??
And that, my friends, is where the rubber meets the road. Remember, at this point Jesus had not died on the cross nor had He been resurrected and defeated death. Yet when we read these instructions from Jesus, it’s easy for us to forget the magnitude of what is involved simply because the word “cross” is so familiar to us. It would be like Jesus telling us to pick out our own electric chair and follow Him! Now who’s game?
However, that is exactly what the disciples did. They did pick up their criminal’s cross, and they did deny themselves, and they did follow Him. Did they do it perfectly? No, but they were obedient to follow Him, even to death. And aren’t we so thankful that they did? Because had they not, you and I would not know of the Wonderful Cross and all that it represents.
The question is, are we willing as Christ-followers to do the same in our everyday lives?
Will it be uncomfortable to deny ourselves of some things in life? Absolutely. Will we be ridiculed for carrying around our cross when the rest of the world is seemingly footloose and fancy free? You bet. But will it be worth it in the end to follow the one true Messiah? Oh, a thousand times YES, it most certainly will be.
Similar to the disciples, we won’t get it right 100% of the time, but if we are faithful and obedient, the rewards will be eternal. And perhaps it is that someone else’s eternity depends upon if we are willing to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him!
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light. Now it is time to REFLECT THE LIGHT.
Jesus, thank You for the magnitude of what You accomplished on the cross on that Good Friday. It is a gift that I don’t deserve and it is hard to understand why You would die for a sinner such as me. Yet You did and now I will pick up my cross and follow You. Help me when I fail, Lord. Extend Your mercy and grace as I attempt to point others to the cross.