The dictionary says that the cross is an upright post used as an instrument of death in ancient times. It is the means by which atonement was made between God and humanity. But to those of us who believe, it is so much more. The way of the cross leads home--to a heavenly home--A home not made by flesh but a home prepared by God for those who embrace the cross and what God accomplished there. The ground around the cross is level--whosoever will may come and find grace in our time of need. The message of the cross changes us forever. It ushers us into an E ternal kingdom, where we are adopted into a family where God himself is our father and the Lord Jesus Christ is our eldest brother. There we are surrounded by brothers and sisters who have also accepted the message of the cross. Our standing is secure. We can never be disowned or disinherited. And all because of the Cross.
Many in the world view us as morbid--focusing too much on the bloody cross. But it's just the opposite, we do not focus enough on it. The cares of this world pull our eyes away from the very thing that breaths life into us. The world cannot understand how death can bring life. How the horrible scars that Jesus bore are beautiful to all of us, not something to run away from but something to run to and something to wholeheartedly embrace.
It can be hard to fully comprehend the cross, but that's OK--The disciples did not understand it either. The cross for the Lord Jesus was a place connected with shame and humiliation. It was a criminals cross--A place where He was demeaned and debased. After we meet Him there He invites us to do something very special---He invites us to take up our own cross and follow Him. But before we obey, we should be fully aware of what is involved. The cross stands as a symbol of circumstances and events in our experience which humbles us, exposes us, and offends our pride. The cross reveals our true sin nature. When Jesus asks us to take up our cross He is asking for us to do so on a daily basis. We are to keep on taking up the cross. When things come at us each day--Big and little things--Big and little hurts--don't be offended by them. Don't avoid them or get angry or get even--but rather welcome them. They will help us crucify the flesh. This is a hard thing to be sure. So hard that the apostle John tells us that many turned back from following the Lord Jesus at that point.
Jesus was straightforward about what discipleship was and is about. He wants us to understand that becoming his disciple and taking up our cross will shatter us, change us, and revolutionize us to our very core. But one more thing He wants us to understand is that there is a way to bear our cross--The same way he bore His. And how is that? He looked beyond His cross and saw the joy that awaited Him. Now He has the joy of victory over death and the grave. He has the joy of knowing that he was completely obedient to his Heavenly Father. He has the joy of a glorified body and reigning forever as King of Kings and Lord of lords. And He has the joy of knowing that He has made a way for all those who will believe to come to Heaven with Him. Now He has the joy, but not before the cross. The same is true for us---the joy awaits us but first....the cross!