“Then he said to them all: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Jesus Christ (Luke 9:23)
A few years back a very curious theft took place at the Church of the Holy Cross in Midtown Manhattan. On Sunday morning the caretakers noticed that a 200-pound rendering of Christ had been removed from the church’s entrance. ‘They just decided, ‘We’re going to leave the cross and take Jesus.’” said David St. James, caretaker of the church.
“We’re just at loss,” he said, adding that it was possible that the thief or thieves want to steal the statue merely for it monetary value. The statue was about four feet long, with a steel core and had been bolted to the cross in four places. The thief or thieves apparently unscrewed the bolts from behind the statue and made off with the other bolts, which bored through the hands of the statue. (New York Times, August 25, 2003)
This puzzling criminal act is more than just another random news story of the early 21st Century. It is a powerful metaphor for how we are willing to take Jesus but not willing to take His cross too. Jesus’ call to us is come to Him to die so we may truly live. He invites us to die to the old self which He put on His cross with Him and surrender to His will for us, to be willing to die to our own plans and follow Him.
Many people today belong to the “Church of the Formally Churched.” That is, they will speak of a time that they attended church, maybe prayed “the sinner’s prayer,” were baptized, attended the youth group etc. but they “grew out of it,” found it less relevant to their lives as they became adults. The took Jesus but never took His cross. This isn’t Christ-i-anity. It is “I” -anity. trying to hold onto Jesus but living by our own desires and dictates.
The thief or thieves who stole the figure of Jesus and left the cross did something possible in the physical realm but is impossible in the spiritual. Many have tried to pull off that stunt (including myself!) but it is totally doesn’t work! When Jesus died on His cross, He took all of those who would put their trust in Him, to the cross with Him. He took the old sinful (put your name here) and crucified him/her with Him. This old sinful person was buried with Him and it was exchanged with His resurrected life. (Romans 6:4-6, Galatians 2:20)
How is this lived out day to day? We daily have opportunity to say “no” to the old person that we used to be, count him or her dead and obey our risen Savior. This is taking up our cross and following Him. If we “leave the cross behind,” and do what we naturally want to do based upon the old sinful, self-loving nature we forfeit intimacy with Jesus. We are fooling ourselves if we think we can. Believing that we have can have Jesus and leave His cross behind is a self-deception that will tragically lead us to self-destruction!
Lord Jesus, thank you for your cross. Thank you for giving yourself for me that I can have true life. Thank you for dealing a death blow to my sinful nature and for your provision by your Holy Spirit to the exchange of "the old me” for the “new me,” Christ in me the hope of glory!
Written by Jamie Bohnett. Contact the Author: firstname.lastname@example.org