I have read the passage, heard the verse, and preached about Jesus' declaration, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34). Yet when I read this the other day by bedside lamplight- I stumbled. I have never been threatened with the fate of a "cross"; I have never been forced to decide between freedom and arrest. While I have faced a few inconveniences and made minimal life alterations based on personal convictions and matters of faith, I have done so at my own will. In other words, my story of discipleship has faced little resistance from outside authorities, minor persecutions by those who know me or meet me (most of these by fellow disciples who disagree with me in regards to social and theological matters), and never put my life or the lives of those I love at risk or in jeopardy. Again, when I read this passage over and again the other night, from the friendly confines of my bed, within a safe neighborhood, after a fairly easy day (aside from wrestling to sleep my two kids), I stumbled.
Has Jesus' call to "carry the cross" anything to do with my Christian witness, experience, context, and journey of discipleship?
After all, the only cross I have ever carried has been worn around my neck, a silver chain with sparkling symbol dangling between my collar bones. I don't think that's what Jesus meant.
But is that what it has come to mean?
I have been enamored by my Lenten journey through Mark's gospel. I have read this rendition of the Jesus story more times than I can count; however, this time around has been different. I have felt as though I have actually entered into the narrative and begun to ask many of the same questions of both disciples and cynics, been astounded by the diverse and subversive, even paradoxical, teachings of this Rabbi, left afraid as I ponder what all this means, and amazed as I consider the brilliance and beauty of what all this can, should, and one day will mean.