God’s Word for You
Mark 8:34-35 Pick up your cross
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, March 24, 2020
34 Then he called the crowd to come to him with his disciples, and said, “If any man would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it.
Before Jesus was arrested, before he was put on trial, before he was whipped and beaten by the Roman soldiers, and long before he was nailed to a cross, he talked about the cross. In fact, he talked about two crosses. He talked about his, and he talked about yours.
They’re not the same physical crosses. His cross was physically a pair of wooden beams which he carried through the streets of Jerusalem and on which he died. You might also talk about his cross spiritually as the sins of the whole world—the weight of all our combined guilt on his shoulders and you could use the same word—the cross that he carried.
Your cross, on the other hand, is the life of being a disciple. Spiritually, you can refer to your cross as the burden of the problems and difficulties we face as Christians. This is something we take up willingly, knowing that the life of a believer isn’t always, and sometimes is hardly ever an easy life. We do it because we follow him. A lifetime of Lutheran theology and Catechism training will hopefully remind each of us that these crosses we bear do not earn us anything toward our salvation. That was accomplished by Jesus on the cross he bore.
Physically, each of our crosses—your cross and my cross—are going to be different. You might have a spouse who suffers from alcoholism, you might have a child who struggles with autism, you might have a loved one who wallows in atheism. You might wrestle with addiction, or a disease like cancer or depression, you might have a grandchild who’s gay and you don’t know how to deal with it. You might have a sin in your past that’s not going away, that controls part of your life every single day.
Pick up that cross and follow Jesus.
Our Lord never made any false promises about an easy road ahead. When he started to talk about his own suffering, Peter tempted him with the same temptation the Devil used: Take the easy road! You’re Jesus Christ! You’re the Son of God! You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You can do so much more! You can call down angels to fight for you. You can do this. You can do that.
No wonder Jesus talked to Peter like he was the devil. “Get behind me, Satan.” Peter was tempting Jesus to thwart the entire plan of salvation. Just because Peter wasn’t telling Jesus to worship the devil doesn’t mean he wasn’t doing the devil’s work. All the devil needed to do then was to get Jesus not to do the work of Christ. All the devil needs to do with you and me is to get us to step off the path of eternal life.
Consider this about a cross: Anyone who picked up a cross was going to die on that cross. It meant suffering, but it also meant death in the end. You might, you might very well, carry your cross your whole life, to the very last breath you take. But you don’t carry your cross alone. Jesus picked up your sins and your guilt and your shame and he carried all that for you. He’s there by your side every step you take. And you don’t need to pick out your path as if there’s nothing ahead but uncertainty. Just shoulder the cross you have and follow Jesus. We can say that he knows the way, but what he told us was that he himself is the way. He is the way to eternal life, where your cross will be gone forever because he remained on his cross to the very end.
Pastor Timothy Smith