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"Jesus began to show unto His disciples, how He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things¬Öand be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee. But He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offense unto Me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men" (Matt. 16:21-23).
The cross is not only an object of faith, but an experience of the soul as well. Just as the cross was Christ¬ís only way to the eternal priesthood, so it is the disciple¬ís only way to realized salvation. The Master¬ís rebuke of Peter brings out the startling truth that the cross is the central and universal condition of the Kingdom. The Apostle besought Jesus to spare Himself, to escape, to turn aside from suffering and death. Christ flung the suggestion from Him. In it He saw the essence of worldliness and a temptation of the devil.
The wisdom of the world is self-sparing, self-shielding, self-seeking. Spare thyself is the sum of its philosophy and its invariable policy. The doctrine of the Kingdom is not spare, but sacrifice. To shirk the cross is to miss the Kingdom. Not only must Jesus go up to Jerusalem and be killed, but every man that would come after Him must also take up the cross. "Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24).
It is to be feared that to many the cross means nothing more than reluctant obedience to disagreeable duties, or the grudging denial of some pleasant habit. They imagine themselves bearing the cross when prodded at the point of conscience, or abstaining from things earnestly desired. In the New Testament the cross stands for definite realities which embody the essential features of the Christian Kingdom. It is the sign of reproach, the altar of sacrifice, and expression of vicarious service.
Sharing Christ¬ís Reproach
The cross was not Jewish; it was Roman. The sting of its suffering was its shame. The physical agony was great, but that does not account for its abhorrence. It was hated because it was the imposition of a foreign power, the ultimate assertion of a pagan authority, and the condemnation of a despised and hated conqueror. Crucifixion to the Jew was the lowest depth of humiliation and shame. It was an alien judgment pursuing him even unto death.
The disciple of Christ bears a cross. He stands condemned by the power of an alien. The world hated Christ and killed Him. They are still in antagonism. He who would be with Christ must come out from the world and share His reproach and condemnation. If the world crucified Christ, it will not be more tolerant of His followers. He warned us to expect for ourselves the treatment it gave to Him.
The cross stands for a life voluntarily surrendered to the will of God. From the standpoint of the world the death of Christ was a murder; in its eternal aspect it was a Divine appointment; in the act of Christ it was a voluntary sacrifice. He Himself said, "I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:17-18). He was a voluntary offering, not a helpless victim. The death of the cross was the last demand upon His obedience. In its agony He endured sin¬ís utmost penalty, sounded the deepest depths of human sorrow, and experienced the heartbreak of silent mystery.
Christ is our example. The obedience of the Christian must be as the obedience of Christ ¬Ė voluntary, continuous, faithful. If obedience involves suffering, loss, mystery, then, like his Lord, he will not flinch in the darkness nor be afraid in the silence, but commit all things to the keeping and responsibility of the eternal Father. This is the meaning of the cross: consecration, obedience, trust.
In the burden of sin-bearing the Savior trod the winepress alone, and of the people there was no man with Him. And yet the disciple is called to the fellowship even of His cross. The logic of Calvary is this: "He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16). If we love as He loved, we shall live as He lived.
Living to Serve
What does this mean in practical life? It means that the man who takes up the cross and follows Christ lives in the will of God for the service of man. Acceptance of the cross is a proclamation that its bearer stands in the midst of a sinful and burdened world in Christ¬ís stead. The cross calls to itself the weary and heavy laden, and pledges its bearer to lift their burdens and lead them into the way of rest. The Christian undertakes to be as Christ in the world, to do His work, to minister in His Spirit, and for this he lays all at the feet of his Lord.
This is bearing the cross: sorrowing over the world¬ís sin, bearing the world¬ís burdens, carrying the world¬ís shame, ministering to the world¬ís need, laying down our life for the world¬ís salvation. This is the badge and test of discipleship.
Have we taken up the cross? Have we dared to come out from the world, antagonized ourselves to it, and borne its reproach? Are we surrendered in all things to the will of God? Has all been placed at His disposal and consecrated to His saving purpose among men? Have we returned to the world as Christ came to it? Do we weep over it, pray for it, live for it, die for it? It is for these the cross stands, and without the cross we cannot be Christ¬ís disciples. ¬Ė Selected
Reprinted from Emmanuel Herald.