On Good Friday, we hear a lot about the Cross of Jesus, but not a whole lot about our own crosses. Jesus made it explicitly clear that if we were to be His disciples, we would have to take up a cross and follow Him (Matt 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). If you think “your cross to bear” is an irksome boss or physical limitation, think again. This is not what Jesus meant at all.
The cross was an instrument of death. Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it succinctly in The Cost of Discipleship: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” In extreme cases, this is a call to martyrdom. In all cases, it is a summons to crucify the flesh.
What does that mean? Simply this: we are to subject our corruption to His crucifixion. Only Jesus, the Perfect God-Human, could have done what He did on Golgotha. Now we can allow the power of His Cross to crucify everything unwholesome in our hearts, resulting in new life. Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight. It took Jesus six hours to die on His cross, but for most victims, their death didn’t happen for days. The crucifixion of our fleshly ways takes a lifetime, but it all begins when you confess Jesus Christ as the One who died, was buried and rose again (1 Cor 15:3-4).
But this isn’t just about the forgiveness of sin. Jesus also died to impart sanctification; that is, He became obedient to death so that you would become a new person, set apart for God’s purposes. I look back on my pre-Christian days and marvel at how different I was from now. I was angry, depressed and self-serving. Taking up a cross seemed counter-intuitive to being reborn, but I finally did so. It hasn’t always been easy. Old friends slipped away, thinking I was a “Jesus freak.” A few years ago, my faith was put to the test when I faced prostate cancer. I still wrestle with knotty theological problems and my stubborn sin-nature will bob up from time-to-time. As Martin Luther reportedly said, “The Old Adam is drowned in baptism, but that jackass is a good swimmer.”
No matter: I’ve taken up my cross. I have decided to follow Jesus. The Crucifixion that happened 2000 years ago on a lonely hill is crucifying me, day-by-day, bit-by-bit, until I will be like Him.
Good Friday, indeed.