Taking up the cross (4)
When Christ calls his disciples to take up their crosses he is calling them to identify with him, his agenda and his method; we don't have crosses that are independent of his. In him each believer as a part of his "body" is born crucified. It is his death and
resurrection we unite with (Romans 6:3-7) and it's on his cross that we are crucified (Galatians 2:20 and 6:14) and it's in him that we live (resurrected life) because he's the one who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). When Jesus says to them they are to take up their crosses he is saying they are to deny themselves and their agendas and embrace his in a personal commitment to him, his agenda and method.
Christ's crucifixion can be looked at from many perspectives, including historical events beyond his human capacities and evil people with their fears and evil agendas. At the emotional level and in some respects Jesus was deeply reluctant to embrace the
cross but that agonised reluctance was smothered by his devotion to the Holy Father and the Father's purposes; so we hear his "Nevertheless, not my will but yours."
The NT will not allow us to believe that Jesus was nothing but a victim. It's true that he was another human caught up in the schemes of corrupt government and religion but the Christ wasn't passive in his going to the cross—he went after it as if the world's life depended on it, which is exactly the case.
The cross of Jesus Christ was not a capitulation to the power-brokers and the political masters of the day. It was one man (who was God
being a man )—one man standing up in defiance against the world-spirit that expressed itself in corrupt and corrupting powers, religious and secular. It was one man standing up for a world of slaves who could not because they would not and would not because they could not save themselves. The cross of Jesus was not a whimpering, cowering acceptance of whatever the overlords were handing out; it was the conscious choosing of the worst thing corrupt powers could do to him that he might expose their impotence (see Colossians 2:15).
As much as they hated the Romans, Jewish leaders in all the sects learned to live in compliance with Rome. Rome allowed and even encouraged freedom of religion when it suited Rome's purposes, so it pleased the Sadducees and the Pharisees to maintain the status quo as long as they could, especially when they (within limitations) ruled the Jewish people. Pay your taxes, keep the peace (that is, accept Rome's domination) and Rome left you alone; who, then, would want these hard-line nationalists of the Galilean areas and their messiahs? Such people were threats to the peace and power of those who gladly settled for Roman dominance as long as they got the cucumbers and meat pots (see Exodus 16:3 and Numbers 11:4-5). Isn't that what was behind their scurrilous remark, "We have no king but Caesar"? And wasn't that the fear we hear expressed at the conference in John 11:47-48 where they planned to railroad a man they knew to be guilty only of undoing the curse and turning people to God? To save
themselves they'd bury him! Did Rome do more? Did they plunder more towns and kill more people? No doubt, but in principle, had they done anything different from what these Jewish leaders were plotting and finally carried out?
In the movie, Judgement at Nuremberg, one of the Nazi characters, speaking of the horrors that had transpired under Hitler, said to the chief-justice after the trial, "I didn't think it would go this far." The judge said, "It went that far when you railroaded the first man you knew to be innocent."
It isn't the destiny of every Christian to die a violent death while standing against the world-
spirit but it is the destiny of every Christian—as a part of the body of Jesus Christ—to refuse to live in compliance with the corruption of the world. It is the business of every Christian to insist that the cross of Christ is the full assessment and condemnation of all that motivates and drives this world of ours. It is the calling of every Christian to pursue a life of Jesus-style righteousness until he comes. Make no mistake about it; the cross of Jesus was no exhibition of someone meekly walking off into oblivion. It was his attack on a world and its prince (John 12:31) and it is to be continued in that community that claims to be "the body of Christ".
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com