Counting the Cost
Taking up our Cross
by Mary Turbet
Counting the Cost - Taking up our Cross
(Editorial note - This was first presented at our church in the Bible Study Hour about Easter Time.)
Easter time and what are we thinking about - Holidays? the Royal Easter Show? or are we thinking about Jesus and his wonderful gift to us of eternal life.
We are told in Luke 14:25-28 that "Large crowds were traveling with Jesus and turning to them he said: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes even. his own life - he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."
To-day, I am looking at these verses and thinking about Counting the Cost. Jesus took up his cross and he went through incredible pain and suffering so that we might have eternal life. You will remember how he three times asked ills Father to "take this cup from me", but eventually accepted the fact that there was no other way to save mankind. Jesus surely "counted the cost" and was prepared to go through with the original plan despite the fact that he knew how awful it would be for Him. Jesus said we must take up our cross and follow Him.
"Cross". The dictionary tells us that there are many meanings, such as trial, affliction, annoyance, "Cross" as in decoration for valour, e.g. Victoria Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, Maltese Cross, Military Cross. Distinguished Service Cross. Cross such as letters can "cross" in the mail; we cross a road; something crosses one's mind; Members of Parliament cross the floor and you can even cross a fortune teller's palm with money.
"Take up your cross". It doesn't sound too hard until you start thinking about it. Just what did Jesus mean? What does it mean to you?
Should you, we take it literally? Imagine yourself dragging a heavy cross around with you. Indeed I have read of one man, in America of course, who dragged a Cross from one side of the continent to the other. I wonder if it did him any good - or those who witnessed his effort. Did people laugh at him? Would you have laughed at him?
Peter requested to be crucified upside down on the cross, as he felt it was not right for his life to be taken in the same way as that of Jesus. I wonder if this made his death easier or harder to bear.
But Jesus did not mean us to take these words literally. He was warning us of the problems that we would face if we chose to follow him. F.F. Bruce says "taking up the cross as commonly applied is not a very hard saying. As originally intended, it is very hard indeed, no saying could be harder."
Luke 14:26 says "If you don't hate your mother, father etc. then you can't be my disciple - "Hate" is a strong word but I think what Jesus is saving here is that He must come first in your life. After all in Matthew 5:43 he tells us to "love our enemies - do not hate them" and Luke 6:27 repeats this so surely we must also love our Mother, Father etc.
To quote Rev. Keith Garner, Jesus used these words to "sort out those who were merely hangers-on interested only in their own advantage and those who were enemies bent on His destruction, from those who were to be sincere followers." Caird says that Jesus was not "looking for spectators but for recruits."
I guess most of us have members of the family who cannot understand why we should follow Christianity, let alone this "crazy" group called Seventh-day Adventists. My relatives take in a group of very committed Christians all the way down to complete atheists - and the same applies to my friends although I am pleased to say the former very much outweigh the latter in each case. Two of my friends who claim to be atheists are such wonderfully helpful, thoughtful, loving people - real Christians in every way except they have difficulty in accepting Jesus as their Saviour - AND most of this is occasioned by the hypocricy of one of their relations who professes Christianity but whose life tells a very different story. Which just shows what a tremendous responsibility is placed on the shoulders of all who claim to be Christians.
Jesus said, "Wide is the gate and broad the way that leads to destruction and many go through it, but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it"
Just about everything in this life of any value. demands effort. Unless we put our backs into it and our minds to it - we will get nowhere, AND when it comes to following Jesus. the same applies. However, hard work and dedication are not always unpleasant and hopefully, all of us here have found the joy that comes from leading a Christian life.
Garner says, "I struggle with any concept of discipleship which suggests that following Jesus means you will succeed financially, be free from life's troubles and protected from its storms". Most of us know that this does not happen. We don't become millionaires overnight. Most of us don't become millionaires. We are not shielded from death. sickness, difficulties with families, sadness in all forms, money problems, problems with people with whom we have to associate, clashes of personality etc. BUT I feel we are given the strength to cope with all these things. And where should this strength come from? The answer, of course, is Jesus and I am sure that he uses the friendships we have cultivated, our family and our Christian family, to help us through these trials AND He has promised to be with us always
In conclusion I will once again quote Garner who says, "In a world where many churches are struggling tor a voice and far too many are in decline. we may be tempted into presenting a more receptive message. We might choose to cut out all the tough stuff and anything that might make a prospective follower think twice. This would be a huge mistake. People face financial pressure, the breakdown of relationships and the power of addiction, leading me to conclude that we must recover the prophetic edge of our message, calling for values that matter most, priorities of lasting worth and a community - friendly lifestyle - and sticking with it.
We must not forget that a person who took up their cross in the early days of Christianity was not making a lifestyle choice but was more than likely going to have their life taken from them. This may not happen in quite the same way today, but it doesn't lessen the need to "count the cost."
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