And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
The Cross Signified Anything Difficult to Bear
When the Romans crucified a criminal, not only did they hang him on a cross. As a last terrible indignity, they made him carry the cross upon his back. Probably Jesus, when a lad, had been a witness of that dreadful spectacle. How it would sink into His boyish mind the dullest imagination can conjecture. And that was why, when He became a man, He used the imagery of cross-bearing to describe all that is bitterest in life. The cross is anything difficult to bear; anything that robs the step of lightness and blots out the sunshine from the sky. And one of the primary secrets of discipleship is given in our text: “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross daily.”
Cross-Bearing: A Universal Thing
The first implication of our text is that cross-bearing is a universal thing. If any man will come after Me—then no one is conceived of as escaping. In the various providences of God there are things we may escape in life. There are many who have never felt the sting of poverty: there are some who have never known the hour of pain. But if God has His providences which distinguish us, He has also His providences which unite us, and no man or woman ever escapes the cross. There is a cross in every life. There is a crook in every lot. There is a bitter ingredient in every cup, though the cup be fashioned of the gold of Ophir. Our Lord knew that everyone who came to Him, in every country and in every age, would have to face the discipline of cross-bearing. The servant is not greater than his Lord.
The next implication of our text is that cross-bearing is a universal thing. “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross.” From which I gather that crosses are peculiar; separate as personality; never quite the same in different lives. When coins are issued from the mint, they are identical with one another. Handle them; they are alike: there is not a shade of difference between them. But things that issue from the mint of God are the very opposite of that: their mark is an infinite diversity. Some crosses are bodily and some are mental. Some spring from unfathomed depths of being. Some are shaped and fashioned by our ancestors, and some by our own sins. Some meet us in the relationships of life, frequently in the relationships of toil, often in the relationship of home. Were crosses like coins issued from the mint, we should ask for nothing more than human sympathy. That would content us, were we all alike. That we would appreciate and understand. But in every cross, no matter how it seem, there is something nobody else can understand, and there lies our utter need of God. No one was ever tempted just as you are, though every child of Adam has been tempted. No one ever had just your cross to carry; there is always something which makes it all your own. And that is why, beyond all human kindliness, we need the eternal God to be our refuge, and underneath, the everlasting arms.
The third implication of our text is that cross-bearing must be a willing thing. “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross.” Probably our Lord, visiting Jerusalem, had seen a criminal led to execution. He had seen the legionary take the cross and lay it on the shoulders of the criminal. And the man had fought and struggled like a beast, in his loathing of that last indignity—and yet for all his hate he had to bear it. Our Lord never could forget that. It would haunt His memory to the end—these frenzied and unavailing struggles against an empire that was irresistible. Did He, I wonder, recall that horrid scene when He forbade His follower to struggle so? Let him take up his cross, I had a friend, a sweet and saintly man, whose little girl was dying. She was an only child, much loved, and his heart was very bitter and rebellious. Then he turned to his wife and said: “Wife, we must not let God take our child. We must give her.” So kneeling down beside the bed together, they gave up their baby—and their wills. My dear reader, I do not know your cross, I only know for certain that you have one. And I know, too, that the kind of way you bear it will make all the difference to you. Your cross may harden you; it may embitter you; it may drive you out into a land of salt. Your cross may bring you to the arms of Christ. Rebel against it, you have still to carry it. Rebel against it, and you augment its weight. Rebel against it, and the birds cease singing. All the music of life’s harp is jangled. But take it up because the Master bids you, incorporate it in God’s plan for you, and it blossoms like the rod of Aaron.
The last implication of our text is that cross-bearing is a daily thing. “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross daily.” There lies the heroism of cross-bearing. It is not a gallant deed of golden mornings. You have to do it, cheerfully and bravely, every dull morning of the week. Some disciplines are quite occasional. They reach us in selected circumstances. Cross-bearing is continuous. It is the heroism of the dull common hour. Thank God, there is something else which is continuous, and that is the sufficient grace of Him, whose strength is made perfect in our weakness, and who will never leave us nor forsake us. “If any man will come after me, let him …. take up his cross daily.”