A Death Sentence

“Then Jesus told his disciples ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” – Luke 9:23

I’ve been struggling with this post for a while, and even now the idea isn’t fully formed, but God is leading me to write about it, so here it goes. Lord, bless my words and tell me what I need to say.

For a period of 3 years, Jesus taught in towns and villages in Israel and the surrounding region. He taught of love, and peace and well-being. He taught of the power of God and coming of His great kingdom. He taught salvation and he taught the correct way to live (not a new way to live, but the correct, the only way to live). Jesus taught how to live life.

Then, right before the transfiguration on the mountain, Jesus suddenly brought up a radical idea: take up your cross and follow him.

The Jews must have shuddered when they heard those words. “Take up your cross.” They knew exactly what that meant.

For those of you who have never studied Roman history, let me give you a brief rundown: crucifixion was a common practice in Ancient Rome. It was used to execute those who were criminals, pirates and enemies of the state. Revolutionaries hung on crosses as a means of death, including Spartacus and his followers. The most famous “revolutionary” to hang on a cross as means of execution was Jesus Christ.

Many Jews were familiar with the practice, living under Roman law, and had most likely seen a decent amount of crucifixions prior to Jesus and had seen a good deal many more beyond Jesus. The practice of crucifixion lasted until the reign of Constantine the Great, who was the first Christian emperor. He banned the practice in honor and memory of Jesus Christ.

One of the common practices of crucifixion was for the criminal to pick up his cross, usually just the horizontal beam, but in other cases the whole cross, and carry it to his place of execution. It would be there that large metal spikes, ranging in length from 5-7 inches, were driven into the unfortunate man’s wrists and feet, and they were hung there to die. It was a very brutal and disgraceful way to die, considered by some Romans to be the most shameful way to die, since it was believed that death on a cross was a sign of loss of social and economic status for that family line.

So, for the Jews to hear, “Take up your cross daily and follow me”, it was a revolutionary idea. The point was clear: following Jesus was a death sentence.

It was radical, revolutionary and contrary to the social order of the day. It would mean exile from their local synagogues, being cut off from friends and family and the possibility of execution in the most painful way possible, all for following Jesus.

Do we view the message of Christ in such a way? Are we willing, day in and day out, to face shame at the hands of the world for the sake of the Gospel of Christ? Are we willing to face the possibility of death just for our message? If the answer is no, then I feel sorry for you. 

Pick up your cross…die for Jesus

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