Lenten Reader | Day 1

Take Up Our Cross

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

Matthew 16:24-26
I have often wondered how this teaching of Jesus was received by his disciples because it comes well before Jesus was crucified on a cross and certainly before that cross became a symbol of our Christian faith. When Jesus said this to his friends, the cross hadn’t yet taken on its meaning of redemption and salvation. It was still a symbol of Roman oppression and torture. What could Jesus have meant when he told them to take up their cross? What did he mean that they would have to lose their lives? Surely this Messiah would triumph, and their oppressors would be the ones to give up their lives.

But as we look back across our history and across our Scriptures, we understand what Jesus was saying. We understand that the Kingdom of God is like this. Everything is upside down and inside out. With God, the poor are rich. The weak are strong. When we save our lives we lose them, and when we turn them over to Jesus, we find them. This is one of the beauties of following Him.

Today is Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. We mark ourselves with ashes to remind ourselves that we come from dust and will return to dust. And to remind ourselves that we are subject to death because of our sin. But that isn’t the end of the story.

We come before God to lay our lives down and to take up our cross. We give up our lives for Jesus so that we can find our lives in Him. We wait in hope during this Lenten season for the redemption that Jesus will accomplish for us when He takes up His own cross for us and defeats death through His resurrection.

Let’s spend this season mourning our rebellion against God and preparing to take up our crosses to follow Jesus.

Erik Allsop