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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Bearing your cross.

It was a video clip intended to be used to introduce a preached message on Mark 8:34 - "And [Jesus] called to Him the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me."   However, it was not one that I would have used.  There are a couple of reasons for that. 

First of all, the 'cross' that was being carried was smooth and light; it was no more than six feet in height (and, I suspect, was not even that!); it was only about thirty inches at the crossbeam.  The gentleman who carried it did so through a variety of scenic backgrounds and, eventually, came to a place where a number of identical crosses were piled up, and where he left that one.  He then returned, unladen, to where he started, and collected another 'cross'.

My second reason is that I am not convinced that Jesus was speaking of a physical 'cross' being carried.  It's a popular notion that has passed into popular language.  If I have a difficulty, I have "my cross to bear"!  So I have to transport my wife to a Christian gathering, at a time at which I had planned to do something else.  Obviously, that's a cross that I have to bear.  Rubbish!  Indeed, double rubbish!!  I am being a husband to the woman whom I love!  It is always my delight to be of help to her.

I'm reminded of the story of the boy, seen by a gentleman, carrying a smaller boy on his back.  "That's a heavy burden you're carrying." said the gentleman.  "That's not a burden," replied the bigger boy, "that's my wee brother!"

Or, perhaps, I don't like my job.  However, I need it in order to pay the bills.  Accordingly, it's a cross that I have to bear!  Once again, rubbish!  It's a necessity; it's something I chose; if I'm so unhappy, I should be considering changing it.  But it's no cross.

I might sum it up by suggesting that just because something that is expected of us rubs against our grain, or causes us some inconvenience, doesn’t mean that we are fulfilling the call to take up our cross!

So what is Jesus saying?  May I suggest that He is referring to commitment?!  It was His commitment that took Him to Calvary - commitment to the will and purpose of the Father.  That's why it must be a daily occurrence.  Every day I need to commit myself, afresh, to Him.  For some, for example those in the persecuted church, this will mean physical privation.  For others, it will simply mean standing up for what is right in His sight.  But it is not the result of my commitment that is my cross; it is the commitment itself.

Are you taking up your cross, on a daily basis, and following Him?   Is your commitment to His service renewed every day?   Only as it is, will you be able to fulfil the prayer of Richard of Chichester, to know Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly, day by day.

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