Now then, what does “the cross” stand for? What did Christ mean when He said that except a man take up his cross? My friends, it is deplorable that at this late date such a question needs to he asked, and it is more deplorable still that the vast majority of God’s own people have such unscriptural conceptions of what the “cross” stands for. The average Christian seems to regard the cross in this text as any trial or trouble that may be laid upon him. Whatsoever comes up that disturbs our peace, that is unpleasing to the flesh, that irritates our temper is looked upon as a cross. One says, “Well, that is my cross,” and another says, “Well, this is my cross,” and someone else says something else is their cross. My friends, the word is never so used in the New Testament.
The word ‘cross” is never found in the plural number, nor is it ever found with the indefinite article before it—“a cross,” Note also that in our text the cross is linked to a verb in the active voice and not the passive. It is not a cross that is laid upon us, but a cross which must be “taken up”! The cross stands for definite realities which embody and express the leading characteristics of Christ’s agony.
Others understand the “cross” to refer to disagreeable duties which they reluctantly discharge, or to fleshly habits which they grudgingly deny. They imagine that they are cross-bearing when, prodded at the point of conscience, they abstain from things earnestly desired. Such people invariably turn their cross into a weapon with which to assail other people. They parade their self-denial and go around insisting that others should follow them. Such conceptions of the cross are as Pharisaical as false, and as mischievous as they are erroneous.
Now, as the Lord enables me, let me point out three things that the cross stands for. First, the cross is the expression of the world’s hatred. The world hated the Christ of God and its hatred was ultimately manifested by crucifying Him. In the 15th chapter of John, seven times over, Christ refers there to the hatred of the world against Himself and against His people; and just in proportion as you and I are following Christ, just in proportion as our lives are being lived as His life was lived, just in proportion as we have come out from the world and are in fellowship with Him, so will the world hate us.
We read in the Gospels that one man came and presented himself to Christ for discipleship, and he requested that he might first go and bury his father—a very natural request, a very praiseworthy one surely (?) and the Lord’s reply is almost staggering. He said to that man, “Follow Me: and let the dead bury their dead.” What would have happened to that young man if he had obeyed Christ? I do not know whether he did or not, but if he did, what would happen? What would his kinsfolk and his neighbours think of him? Would they be able to appreciate the motive, the devotion that caused him to follow Christ and neglect what the world would call a filial duty? Ah, my friends, if you are following Christ the world will think you are mad, and some natures and dispositions find it very hard to bear reflections on their sanity. Yes, there are some who find the reproaches of the living a harder trial than the loss of the dead.
Another young man presented himself to Christ for discipleship and he requested the Lord that he might first be allowed to go home and say farewell to his friends—a very natural request, surely—and the Lord presented to him the cross: “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God!” Affectionate natures find the wrench of home ties hard to bear; harder still are the suspicions of loved ones and friends for having been slighted. Yes, the reproach of the world becomes very real if we are following Christ closely. No man can keep in with the world and follow Him.
Another young man came and presented himself to Christ and fell at His feet and worshipped Him, and said, “Master, what good thing shall I do?” and the Lord presented to him the cross. “Sell all that thou hast and give to the poor. ..and come and follow Me.” And the young man went away sorrowful. And Christ is still saying to you and to me this morning, “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.” The cross stands for the reproach and the hatred of the world. But as the cross was voluntary for Christ, so it is for His disciple. It can either be avoided or accepted; ignored or “taken up”!
We invite you and your family to worship with us at Grace Missioanry Baptist Church locagted at the Glowmar Bridge Hwy 15. Sunday Sachool 11:00 a.m. Worship 12:00 Eveing Worship 6:00 p.m. Wednesday Prayer Meeting and Bible Study 6:00 p.m. Elder Charles Minks, Brother Fred Minks.