The caretaker of the church was bewildered by that. He said that it didn’t make sense to take Jesus without the cross. “I figure if you want the crucifix, you take the whole crucifix.” In other words, if I may paraphrase this for our use here: If you want Jesus, you take Jesus, but you also take the cross.
But you and I understand that choice, on a spiritual level, don’t we? Oh, we’ll take Jesus, yes! Jesus the compassionate one, Jesus the Savior, Jesus the Good Shepherd, Jesus the Good Physician, Jesus my best Friend, Jesus who gives me forgiveness and mercy and grace and peace and comfort and more blessings than I can possibly even begin to count. We’ll take Jesus…but the cross? Hardships that come our way because we follow him? And the difficulties, that come into our lives, because, we follow him? I’m not talking about hangnails, or dead batteries, or broken bones, or clogged plumbing. Those things come to everybody!
The cross means persecution, maybe overt, maybe subtle, perhaps ridicule. It means strained relationships, maybe relationships that simply cannot work anymore. Don’t work anymore because you follow Jesus. That’s what the cross means. The cross means that it will not be an easy road. The cross means that we serve, rather than be served. The cross means deny yourself, even though everyone around you is indulging self.
What is the key to taking up the cross and confessing Christ clearly? Well, you’re doing it right now. Focus on the solid rock of the Word of God. Fix your eyes on the one who has his eye on you, and who holds you in the palm of his hand. This isn’t always planned, fun, and easy. I’m not saying it can’t be, but it isn’t always. It is the way of faith! It is the way of life! It is the way of true and lasting joy in Jesus. And, this is the One Thing that nothing, and no one, can ever take away.
Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25 In fact whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24,25 EHV)
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand