Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my
follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you
try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake
and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you
gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your
soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful
days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of
his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38 (NLT)

I’ve been stuck on this passage, trying to figure out why Jesus told his disciples to
take up their crosses. Looking at the larger context of the passage, we can see that
Jesus is describing just how much it costs to follow Him. It costs everything–your
way, your life. But why the cross reference? Over the years I’ve thought that the
cross was meant to represent my burdens or my baggage. And that taking it up and
following Jesus would be a surrendering of my will and dropping all the junk in my
life I insist on dragging around with me. But I’m not sure that interpretation is what
Jesus meant when he spoke those words to his disciples.

At that time, the cross was a symbol of a guilty verdict, a death sentence, public
suffering, and shame. I have trouble believing all those in the crowd pictured
themselves dying on a cross. What is Jesus suggesting here? Our guilt and need for
forgiveness? Or is this a foreshadowing of his own death? During this Lenten Season,
as I consider Jesus’s journey to the cross, with and on the cross, I wrestle with what
he meant when he spoke of our crosses. Is my cross something I might be holding
back when he asks for all of my life?

–julie dahlberg

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