Lent Devotional March 19: That Cross is Scary!
That Cross is Scary!
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34
So one of the phrases that has been bothering me lately is the phrase “pick up thy cross.” Then, it struck me that as soon as Jesus said this the crowd would have thought to themselves, “I’m not going to go and pick up any cross.” Any follower or disciple of Jesus knew that death on the cross was already something far too common.
Crucifixion was a traditional Roman means of execution for slaves, the poor, militants and rebels. Death on the cross was meant to intimidate the masses; it was meant to remind anyone who stood in the way of Roman power that the punishment for insurrection was swift and sure. Whatever Jesus did during his ministry, he knew that if the authorities objected to his message of a different kingdom here on earth and arrested him, death on the cross was already predetermined. His punishment was set.
Jesus was not the first Jew to die on the cross nor would he be the last. There was nothing uniquely profound about this punishment or death. Thousands of Jews had already been punished through death on the cross. Untold thousands more would die by Roman hands in the Jewish Wars that consumed the latter half of the first century.
So when Jesus challenged his followers to pick up their cross, he was saying that tomorrow or the next day anyone could be arrested and charged and sent to die on the cross. Even at this early portion in Mark’s gospel Jesus knew that most likely he would die on the cross. Such an event should come as no surprise to any one.
So what does this phrase mean for us? Do we possess something that we can give up, let go and let die? There are not shortcuts to experiencing the resurrection. Self-denial and death must come first.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for choosing death on a cross for me. Help me to understand what that death means for me and how I might live with more self-denial, letting those things in my life that need to die do so. Amen.
Rev. Paul Hamilton