Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27 (ESV)
Death on a Roman cross was the most horrific form of capital punishment in the ancient world. Crucifixion was a very slow, excruciating, painful death and reserved for the worst criminals. The process was so inhumane that Rome did not permit its own citizens to be executed by crucifixion. No doubt today it would be considered cruel and unusual punishment.
The process of crucifixion began with the criminal carrying the crossbeam of the cross through the street of the city to the outskirts of town where the crucifixion was to take place. The town’s citizens would line the street to witness the “death march” as it was known. The significance of this spectacle was to publicly display the guilt of criminal. By carrying the crossbeam the criminal was acknowledging that a Roman court had found him guilty of a crime. He would later be nailed to the same crossbeam and hanged to die.
Imagine the shock, the horror, that went through the hearts and minds of the crowd that was following Jesus that day when he said, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Many in the crowd had to be offended at such a pronouncement.
The words Jesus spoke to that crowd are relative for us today. We have all been found guilty before God and must pay the penalty of our sin. God’s wrath upon our sin must be satisfied. The good news for those who believe in him, is that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin with his blood and absorbed God’s wrath on our sin in our behalf on the cross.
Since Jesus has purchased us with his blood we must follow him to the cross. To be a disciple of Jesus we must die to the desires to please ourselves. We are totally his, completely at his disposal (1 Corinthians 7:23). We follow him. We obey his every command every day. There are no vacations, no earned personal time off. We give up our rights to live life the way we choose. The apostle Paul understood the call of the cross and the cost of being a disciple of Christ. He wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”(Galatians 2:20 ESV)
Vance Hanver once wrote, “We are not bearing our crosses every time we have a headache; an aspirin tablet will take care of that. What is meant is the trouble we would not have if we were not Christians.” G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Jesus promised the disciples three things – that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy and in constant trouble.”
I have asked myself the following questions many times: “Am I really a disciple of Jesus if I am never in trouble because I am a Christian? Am I really a disciple of Jesus if I am not willing to die to all earthly pleasures to perform what he commands me to do? Am I really a disciple of Jesus if I am not dying daily to the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life?”
Have you asked yourself those questions?
Scriptures for meditation:
1 Corinthians 6:20