Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27 NRSV)
Whenever Jesus goes out into the world, he seemingly attracts a crowd. The context for this passage is no different. He’s out there traveling, and people start to walk in his footsteps. Important to note for all that comes after, these people aren’t the disciples. He did not call them to him. There might have been dropped fishing nets, fields left to be plowed, or grapes waiting to be smashed into wine, but that was of the people’s own accord. They came to Jesus. They wanted to be there. They noticed the astounding, shocking, and (at times) unbelievable things he was doing and the hope he was promising (a Kingdom ruled by God and not Caesar).
So what was Jesus to do but color their expectations of following him a little differently than they (and we) expected? We could focus on hating father, mother, spouse, brother, sister, your own soul, but that wouldn’t be fun, would it? I mean that sounds like my teenage years wrapped into one saying! Well, except that whole spouse thing…
Anyway, I’m much more drawn to his call of carrying the cross. He could just have easily been saying each disciple needs to carry his or her own cross. In fact, many translations say just that: CEB, The Message, and NIV for example.
I think though there is some confusion on this whole personal cross thing. It’s seeped into our societal lingo so that one says “that’s just my cross to bear” whenever something unpleasant happens to them. I broke my leg, just my cross to bear. My job sucks, just my cross to bear. My husband is abusive, just my cross to bear. It turns into a euphemism for “endurance” (whether we need to endure it or not).
But the cross is more radical than that. Jesus’ cross was a something different than just endurance.And it was also more than just sacrifice and suffering, because, at this point in the story, that hasn’t even happened yet!
Jesus probably means something different when he calls us to carry our cross. He means choosing daily to participate in his ministry. Choose daily to do the things which led him to be arrested, charged, and executed on the cross. It means bringing good news to the poor, it means releasing the captives, it means giving sight to those who can’t see, it means working so no one is truly oppressed, it means working for God’s Empire now (Luke 4:18-19).
To be a disciple of Jesus means we choose to do the life-giving work of Christ each day. We wake up and say “yes!” Yes, I will follow you, Jesus. Yes, I will do the things you did: bring life and hope to everyone, even if it means they won’t like it. Yes, I will carry my/our cross. Yes, I will be your disciple.
May it be so this, and every, day.