To take up our crosses and be crucified with Christ is to constantly choose God’s will over ours.
“From that time, Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” — Matthew 16:21-25, ESV.
What does it mean to “take up our crosses and follow Christ”? What does it mean to lose our life for Christ’s sake?
For Jesus, to live is to be in union with God, to do His will, and to reconcile humankind to God. To do this, He had to do what He was predestined to do. But Jesus, being perfectly God and perfectly human, have every right to choose not to. At every juncture leading up to the cross, Jesus could easily have said, “I give up”, or, “It’s too hard, I can’t take it anymore.” As a human being with flesh and blood, He experienced tiredness, irritation, annoyance, life-threats, illnesses, fatigue, and temptations. In fact, He was tempted in every respect (ref: Hebrews 4:15). He could have chosen to back out and God would not have faulted Him.
But He did not. He held on.
Following Christ as a cross in itself.
You see, sin is not just doing what is wrong. Sin is the failure to do the right thing (ref: James 4:17). And for Christ, He knew exactly what was required of Him.
From forsaking of His heavenly throne for a humble birth to discipling disciples who are weak in faith. From putting up with Pharisees who tried to kill him to bearing the pain on the cross till His final breath. Jesus knew exactly what was expected of Him.
Therefore, when we look at Christ’s example, we see that to be “crucified” meant to hold on dearly to what we know is the will of God and not let go even at the point of death. For Christ, this was His entire journey on earth.
We are crucified with Christ
So, when we say that we are crucified with Christ (ref: Galatians 2:20), we are proclaiming that we are clinging to the will of God from the time we chose to follow Him till the point of death. That includes doing what God willed for us to do and not giving in to temptation, no matter how strong it may be.
Jesus knew the pain He had to bear when He prophesied His death to His disciples. This pain, though unimaginably tormenting, is dear to Him. It is, after all, His father’s will. And no matter how harmless or outwardly good Peter’s anxiety was, it was a temptation for Jesus. To this temptation, Jesus rebuked, “get behind me Satan!”
Where are we in our walk with Christ? What is the will of God for us in our lives? Are you called to ministry but is battling the anxiety about earthly concerns? Are you fighting your conscience on whether or not to stand up for what you know is right? Are you struggling in an addiction that is too great to bear? For all our struggles with temptations, we can learn from our Master and say, “Get behind me Satan! You’re a hindrance to us!”
The cross and our fight with temptation
Christ taught His disciples to take up their crosses after rebuking Peter because there is a direct correlation between the two. This correlation is in Christ’s fight against all causes of sin (ref: Matthew 13:41, ESV). He wasn’t very much concern about sin it itself. He was more concerned about the root of it (ref: Matthew 18:7, Matthew 5:22,28). For Peter, the root of sin was to seek the welfare of His Teacher without seeking the will of God. What about ourselves? Is the root of our sins anger? Is it lustful intent? Is it pride? Is it jealousy? We are called to nail it to our crosses and follow Him.
To be crucified, therefore, is not only about losing our lives for the sake of Christ. To be crucified is a constant conscious decision to stay on the cross despite knowing you are able to come down. To be crucified is the constant reminding of ourselves to get Satan behind us as we seek the will of the Lord. To be crucified is to fill ourselves with the love of God that all earthly temptations and noises are drowned out from our hearts. To be crucified is to constantly consciously choose God as our Master over earthly desires.
To be crucified is to know Christ was crucified for us
But, no one is able to live a blameless life this way by our own strength. No one can ever have full control of their thoughts, emotions, and struggles. That was why Paul shared that the secret to living such a life is to root ourselves in Christ. We live the life that we now have by faith, knowing that the Son of God gave His life to us out of love so that we can now live to God (ref: Galatians 2:19-20). Hence, the most essential aspect of being crucified is to constantly root our faith in the knowledge that Christ was crucified for us so that we may live with full confidence that all our sins have been forgiven.
Father, I thank You for reminding us how important it is to take up our own crosses and to follow You. I thank You for taking the initiative by providing us an example for us to follow by dying on the cross for our sins. It is our prayer that we constantly remember the work that You have done on the cross 2000 years ago so that we may look to You and remind ourselves of the teachings that You have taught us, to die to our own self and to live to You. In Jesus’ most precious name I pray. Amen.