As if the denying of self was not hard enough, Jesus told the disciples that those who wished to come after Him would both deny themselves and take up their cross daily. This taking up our cross is sometimes a difficult concept. At the time Jesus said these words, He had not yet been crucified. He had, however, already taken up His cross.
The cross was used as a form of execution by the Romans, on which criminals were crucified. Nailed to the wooden beams and left to die in the blazing sun, their deaths could be a prolonged agony. It was a horrible form of death. It was not only the instrument of death for Jesus but clearly no surprise to Him. It was the worst method of death by which He paid for the worst kind of sin. My sin. Your sin.
The cross was, in a way, the purpose of His coming. It was that to which He was destined. Jesus came to die and be raised again, and He came to die on the cross. Everything He taught, every miracle He did pointed toward the supreme sacrifice He would make for us. Isaiah described Him as a suffering servant, and that is what He was, even to suffering on the cross as He served us with His sacrificial death.
When we look at what the cross meant to Jesus, we must also ask what our cross means to us. It is not just a piece of jewelry or a decorative icon, or it should not be. Our cross is that for which we were born, that which is our destiny. Those sound like big words, don't they? Though big, they are no less true.
It is easy to be so caught up in the busy routine of our lives that we miss our destiny entirely. Peter was a busy and successful fisherman until the day business and destiny collided. Not everyone who follows Jesus will leave their business and become a full-time minister, but some will. Others will embrace a variety of service options, from visiting shut-ins to feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless.
We all have a cross to bear. Jesus's words make that clear. What is your cross, your destiny? What is the reason for which you were born? How are you called to serve in the Kingdom of God? You may wonder if this business of knowing and bearing your cross even matters. It does. Jesus said that we would take up our cross daily and follow Him. Just as the following must be preceded by denial of self, so, too, it must be preceded by taking up our cross on a daily basis. As we begin our day, let us start by picking up our cross, that we might follow close to our Lord, who embraced His own cross for us.