The Cross Is the Ultimate Threat of Shame, and Jesus Defeated It
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” ’
Just before this, Jesus established that the disciples understood who He was. He is the Christ, the Chosen One, the Son of God. (He is worthy of capitalization however we refer to Him!)
So this isn’t just some zealot wacko talking. This is the Son of God. So listen up.
He says that He is going to be rejected and will suffer. He’ll even be killed and raised from the dead days later. But He’s doing it as part of His life. It’s part of His calling. And as all disciples are called to become like their teachers, He calls on the disciples to do the same.
The cross was a horrible thing. Roman soldiers played games with the bodies of criminals. They would hang them up in all kinds of terrible ways to bring shame on them and to flaunt their power.
So to take up your cross daily means you’re willing to take on any kind of shame and humiliation — even if it kills you. It will do you no good in the Kingdom of Heaven to gain all of the honor that the world offers.
I think this really is more about shame and honor than it is about actual martyrdom. Even though Jesus is talking about His own death and the cross only means death, Jesus knew that shame and honor would be a more frequent struggle for us as Christians than death.
He goes on to talk about whoever is ashamed of Him will be judged harshly.
This is where real religion and faith in Christ becomes clear. Someone can do all kinds of church stuff and be a genius at how to ‘do’ Christianity, but if they don’t have the love of Jesus, they might be ashamed at some of the things He teaches.
We can be bummed at how this or that Christian leader or institution does something, but if we are following Jesus Himself, we never need to be ashamed of Him. He will never let us down and all of His teachings are good. (Sometimes we just need to understand them in the right context better.)
Taking up our cross doesn’t mean we willfully walk into deadly or shameful situations, it means that we focus on Jesus and don’t have to fear or be surprised at any negative results. It means we can follow this man, Jesus, and never fear shame from the Son of God.