Let’s go ahead and focus on verses 34-38 which are called “the way of the cross”. So what does it take to be a follower of Jesus? In Jesus’ response he tells us that we must be willing to deny ourselves and be willing to lose our lives for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus introduces the cross into this conversation with the disciples even while they are not fully aware how important of a symbol this will become within the Christian faith. We must be willing to take up our cross. We must be willing to die as criminals even if we have done nothing wrong. We must be willing to sacrifice our very lives even for those who don’t deserve it. Taking up a cross means putting others in front of us even to the point of it harming us.
The cross, it is a symbol of Christianity ever since the first disciples. But think of what the cross represents. It would be as if an electric chair would be our symbol. The cross was a torturous way to execute criminals. It is a capital punishment tool. Have you ever wondered why we use the cross as our symbol. It is draped in violence and suffering. The cross as our point of reference strikes me as a bit shocking, if you were to objectively think about it. What other symbol could we use that might not be as glaringly powerful which represents death and damnation?
There is often talk about branding and what are we going to use as our symbol so that everyone knows who we are? So what if we used an empty tomb as a symbol? Or what if we decided to use the baskets of the loaves and the fish overflowing as our symbol. We could use the Bible as our symbol. There are a plethora of choices that we could use. The dove could be our symbol or a pathway that leads to light. But a long time ago we settled on the cross, an executioners instrument. Stunning, yet it is what we have.
If we question the use of the cross are we in any way putting in jeopardy the fact that Jesus died on the cross for the sake of our sins? When we give thanks that we have been washed clean by the blood of the lamb are we in any way insisting that the cross is part and parcel of our faith? I don’t think so. Paul does say that we must believe that Jesus was crucified, dead, buried and then rose again on the third day. We believe that! But nowhere does it state that the cross must be the symbol that identifies us or that we use as a device to venerate in many instances. The cross of Jesus was absolutely necessary. It is also necessary that we carry our own crosses, our own shame, our own suffering. It is part of who we are as disciples. But in no way does the cross have to represent us. I like the empty tomb better. It provides more hope.