Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 16. A Pattern
Mt 10:38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
So far in these short meditations we have been focusing on the crucifixion, the actual events of Christ’s death on a wooden cross at the hands of the Romans at the instigation of the Jews. Now we move on to consider something of the significance of ‘the Cross’, the meaning behind the event.
We start with this somewhat enigmatic reference to a cross, being carried by any and every Christians – for that is what is implied here; this does apply to every Christian, every believer in Jesus, every follower of the Son of God. I use the word enigmatic because without quite a bit if thought it is puzzling, it is mysterious, it is unknowable.
Let’s consider the basic picture, a man carrying a cross. What does it tell us? This is a man on his way to being crucified, to being put to death. This is a man as good as dead, because although the death has not yet occurred (and none of us know when we will die) if this man is now carrying a cross, it means he has been condemned and on his way to the place of execution; yes, he is as good as dead.
So what is Jesus saying? If you want to be worthy of Jesus, if you want to be considered one of his followers – a Christian – then (at the very least) you have to take on the attitude of one who has given up his claim to his life, one who considers they have put their future into the hands of God for His disposal if that is what He wants.
Later in Matthew we find the same thing but slightly extended: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Mt 16:24) Did you see the extension? “must deny themselves”. It’s the same thing but put differently, i.e. give up their claims to their life, give up their claims to their future and put them all entirely in God’s hands so that He can work out the best for us. He, of course purposes better for each of us than we do for ourselves, and how we struggle to believe that!
We plot, we plan, we organise, we scheme, we hope for the best, which sometimes comes and sometimes doesn’t, and the thought of putting it into God’s hands (really) is difficult if not impossible and yet, here it is laid out before us a number of times in the Gospels, this challenge that goes to the heart of being a Christian, this challenge that must haunt us we approach Easter. Will I opt for the imitation life that will be so fleeting (and which may even crash and burn) or will I trust it all into His hands and say, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven – in my life”?