3 minute read

Your Cross is His Cross

Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'
(Matthew 16:24)

Jesus had run a focus group with His disciples to talk about who the people were saying He was. The apostles gave Him all the answers that were trending on Jerusalem social media at the time: “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:14). But Peter nailed the answer Jesus was looking for: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” (v. 16)

And if the discussion had ended there, Peter would have graduated at the top of his class. But Jesus continued telling them what it meant that “He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus was about to go to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the religious leaders, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again from the dead.

“That will never happen to you, Lord!” (v. 22) Peter took His Lord aside and had the audacity to correct Him. Let that sink in a little bit. Peter took it upon himself to put His Lord in His place! Peter knew what he thought it meant to be the Christ. He knew what it meant to be the Son of God. Peter’s Christ is a conquerer. He’s all powerful. He doesn’t suffer and He certainly can’t die!

This should be a warning to all of us! Peter wasn’t speaking for God anymore. Jesus said that Peter was working for Satan! For any Christ that doesn’t go to the cross for you and me isn’t from God. Any message, any “gospel,” any “churchy” word, that doesn’t rest only with Jesus and Him crucified isn’t from God. It can be a good message, it can convey something important, and it can be positive and uplifting, but if isn’t centered on Jesus crucified for you, it’s not from God.

Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'

Peter had a strong love for Jesus. He believed Jesus to be the Christ. He wanted to follow Him. He just had no clue what that meant and He didn’t want Jesus to tell him. He had a to-do list that matched what most Hebrews thought the Christ would do! The Christ would come and He would conquer their enemies (the Romans) and make Israel a great country again. Instead, Jesus had this item on His to-do list: live for Peter and then die for Him. You and the world were on His list, too!

We, too, like Peter, have expectations of God. We have our to-do list for Him which includes what we think He should be, how He shouldn’t be, what He should like, what He shouldn’t like, what He should give us, and how He should punish others. Peter took His thoughts about Christ and corrected Jesus with them.

When Jesus says “deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me” He’s saying, “Don’t put Me in My place like Peter tried to do. Let me correct what you think.” Jesus says literally that you are to “put away yourself!” ( ἀπαρνησάσθω). You are to reject all thoughts and ideas about what your God should be and let Jesus speak to you in His Word. That’s the true cross of the Christian!

Your cross isn’t the bad things that happen you in this world: the suffering, sickness, sadness, pain, failure, and sin that you struggle with. The times in which life doesn’t go your way are also not your cross. Those things are challenges, and maybe even gifts from God that call you out of your sins and that serve to refine your faith like fire refines iron (Malachi 3:2).

No, your cross is His Cross! For the cross Jesus is referring to is located on a hill called “Calvary.” It’s where He died for you. His death alone saves you. His Cross is what Christianity is all about. Receiving His Cross is faith!

Your cross is to believe that His Cross alone saves you over against everything else in you that wants to believe otherwise. Jesus has done it! He truly has saved you by grace through faith. For He lived His life for you and died the death you deserve. And after three days, He rose for you just like He promised! All that you did, all that you will ever do, every sin for all time was put upon Him because He alone saves.

So, each day you confess your sins to Him. You confess where you think that you mattered most and He mattered least. You repent of how you loved yourself more than others and you failed to put your hope and trust in His Cross alone saving you. His Word of Law calls you out of your sins. His Word of Gospel enlivens you.

In order for Him to save you, it was necessary that He suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests and teachers of the Law, be crucified, and on the third day rise again. For that’s what it means that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God! Believing His Cross alone saves you is taking up your cross.

Rev. George F. Borghardt is the pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Bossier City, Louisiana and serves as the President of Higher Things. His email is revborghardt@higherthings.org.