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Jesus said, “And whoever does not take up his cross and come after me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:38).
Like the sword Jesus had mentioned, Jesus used the ‘cross’ also in a metaphorical sense. He volunteered to carry the cross in the literal sense because, according to the Roman practice, the convict had to carry his cross on the way to his crucifixion. By Jesus’ use of the cross, it got symbolic meanings:

1. Death: The direct meaning of the cross is death because the Persians and Romans used it to execute criminals. Crucifixion that started in the sixth century BC continued until the fourth century AD when Emperor Constantine stopped the practice. The executors nailed or tied the convict to the cross and left him hanging there until death. With the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the cross became a symbol of salvation and liberation from the bondage of Satan and sin, because Jesus came as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).

2. Humiliation: Jesus humbled himself to accept a shameful death sentence generally awarded only to severe and non-Roman criminals. He had to carry the cross in public while those who admired him and others who hated him watched. His crucifixion between two notorious criminals was another form of humiliation as the worst convict among them. Jesus wants his followers also to accept humiliation when needed, to give witness to his gospel and for the salvation of the people whom God assigns them to serve.

3. Suffering: The agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the torture during the trial before religious and civil authorities, carrying the cross, being nailed to it, and hanging on it for hours were acute sufferings Jesus endured. Carrying the cross was physically burdensome and mentally disgraceful. Though innocent and the Son of God, he presented himself as a role model for his disciples on endurance for the sake of the gospel. However, through his glorious resurrection, he also proved that such a death for the gospel is rewarding.

4. Love: The cross was Jesus’ choice in terms of expressing his love for us. Suffering for others is the best manifestation of love. Jesus taught his disciples, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). He practiced that virtue right from his birth to his death. Hence, John wrote, “The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth” (1 Jn 3:16- 18). Thus, cross is a symbol of sacrificial love for us Christians.

5. Merging of divine and human love: A cross has vertical and horizontal beams fastened. The vertical plank extends from the ground to the sky and represents God’s descent to the world through Jesus and the ascent of our love towards heaven. That relationship will be complete only by attaching the horizontal beam which symbolizes the extension of our love for our brethren. Thus, when Jesus asks us to carry our cross, it involves love and service extended to God and to others. So, John wrote, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 Jn 4:20-21).

6. Road to Victory: Every achievement in life involves hardships. Heavenly glory is our ultimate goal that also needs our effort, along with the sacrifice of Jesus. Paul wrote, “he (Jesus) humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil 2:8-10). Jesus wants us also to “Enter through the narrow gate” and constricted road that leads to eternal life (Mt 7:13-14).

7. Key to heaven: Jesus used his cross to open the gates of heaven for us. He handed over the same key of sacrificial love to his followers, so they can also use it as a ladder to reach heaven.

8. Christianity: The Cross became an emblem of Christianity after the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 313 AD. It reminds Christians of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, giving them hope even during suffering.

Jesus said, “take up his cross and come after me” (Mt 10:38). By this statement, Jesus predicted the type of sacrifice he was going to undertake. “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-15). He invited his disciples to follow him by carrying their hardships for the Kingdom of God. Thus, Jesus prepared them to face persecution. So, the apostles and other disciples accepted the hard path without complaint. “To carry the cross” is a figurative expression of the Christians’ dedication to endure opposition and burdens for the gospel.

Jesus added, “whoever does not take up his cross and come after me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:38). Jesus wants his disciples to be active in continuing his mission in the world until his second coming. Nominal or passive followers are not worthy of discipleship. Paul did not complain about the hardships he faced for evangelization; instead, he proudly listed what he endured: “Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fasting, through cold and exposure. And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor 11:24-28).


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