Jesus could easily clear a room—His teachings were often demanding, costly and bold.
At one point, Jesus tells all those who are following Him that to be His disciples they had to hate mother, brother, sister, father and even self—to pick up their cross and follow Him.
Jesus didn’t mean hate as we think of the word, but it was a provocative call to place the commitment of following Christ above everyone else. In a way, Jesus was saying, “Every relationship you will ever have will be affected by your decision to follow me.”
This passage still blows me away; I wonder what the disciples would’ve thought about Jesus’ words—about picking up their cross? This was before Jesus’ death so the pieces of the puzzle weren’t all in place for them; the cross was just a raw, humiliating form of punishment instituted by the Roman government, nothing more.
For Jesus, being a disciple wasn’t about taking a 10-week class with fill-in-the-blanks, but hitting the road, experiencing life, seeing the miraculous, being tested, failing and starting over again—until this new way of life becomes as natural as putting on your pants in the morning.
The reality of discipleship is always found in the rough edges of the cross. To embrace it I have to give up everything else. To slide the cross over our shoulders, we have to drop everything in our hands. Everything.
Sometimes I catch myself spiritualizing that saying and I have to remind myself about the physical weight of the cross.
When I was a youth pastor, every once in a while we would use a life-size wooden cross during worship. When I needed to get it out, I went to the barn in the back of the church and hefted it over my shoulders.
Two things would happen every time I did this.
1. Someone at the church would make a joke, “Hey, you’re taking this ‘carry your cross’ thing literally!
2. I would get a splinter.
Not a little itsy-bitsy one, but a jagged inch-long why-is-that-thing-in-my-body kind.
Sometimes in my hand. Sometimes in my arm and every once in a while on my shoulder or back. When I pulled out the splinters, I would often think about the call of Jesus.
It may sound ridiculous, but sometimes I have to remind myself that what happened on the cross was real—not that I ever thought it was fake—but I often forget to think about the physical nature of the crucifixion. In the same way, the call to follow Christ is not some statement floating in the air; it’s a real and physical call to follow—with our minds and our bodies.
I often have this picture in my head about the Christian life. It has kind of a Christian bookstore feel to it with a hint of Sunday school and a dash of Bible study. It’s flowery, sometimes bland and in need of a serious makeover.
Thank God, this is not the reality of discipleship; it’s not about comfort or trendy merchandise tailor-made to fit my needs, but it’s about the reality of a costly decision that will affect every relationship I have for the rest of my life.
It’s about the cross.
And the hope.
Today, let the rough wood rubbing against your back serve as an unforgettable reminder of the sacrifice Christ made and His call for us to do the same.