It is written:
Luke 9:23-Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
The Christian life is hard.
The other day, I was listening to a song that some friends introduced me to called, “The High Cost Of Living High.” At one point in the song, the lyrics say:
“That southern Baptist parking lot
Was where I’d go to smoke my pot
And sit there in my pickup truck and pray
And starin at that giant cross
Just reminded me that I was lost
And it just never seemed to point the way.”
I have been meditating on that last phrase, where it speaks about the cross. The lyrics say, “and it just never seemed to point the way.”
I believe that is where the majority of people in our world focus, believing that the cross doesn’t point the way.
But the truth is, it absolutely DOES point the way.
It is just that the way of the cross is HARD and many people do not want to accept it.
Indeed, the cross points to a way of life that a lot of people just don’t want to acknowledge and embrace. It points us to a life of self-denial, a life of hardship, and a life of adversity. It reminds us that we will be faced with forces who oppose us for following Jesus, and that it will be a painful life.
Bruce has pointed out:
“In all three synoptic Gospels these words follow the account of Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus’s first warning about his impending passion, Peter’s expostulation and the rebuke which it drew forth from Jesus. It is as though Jesus said to them, `You still confess me to be the Messiah? You still wish to follow me? If so, you should realise quite clearly where I am going, and understand that, by following me, you will be going there too.’ The Son of man must suffer; were they prepared to suffer with him? The Son of man faced the prospect of violent death; were they prepared to face it too? What if that violent death proved to be death on a cross? Were they prepared for that? The sight of a man being taken to the place of public crucifixion was not unfamiliar in the Roman world of that day. Such a man was commonly made to carry the crossbeam, the patibulum, of his cross as he went to his death. That is the picture which Jesus’s words would conjure up in the minds of his hearers. If they were not prepared for that outcome to their discipleship, let them change their minds while there was time-but let them first weigh the options in the balances of the kingdom of God: `for whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it’ (Mark 8:35). Many, perhaps most, of those who heard these words proved their truth. Not all of them were actually crucified. This, we know, was Peter’s lot; the first of those present to suffer death for Jesus’s sake, James the son of Zebedee, was beheaded (Acts 12:2). But this is what is meant by `taking up the cross’-facing persecution and death for Jesus’s sake. When Luke reproduces this saying he amplifies it slightly: `let him deny himself and take up his cross daily’ (Luke 9:23). A later disciple of Jesus, one who was not present to hear these words in person, entered fully into their meaning and emphasises this aspect: `I die every day’, Paul writes (1 Cor. 15:31), meaning `I am exposed to the risk of death every day, and that for Jesus’s sake.’ He speaks of himself and his fellow-apostles apostles as `always carrying in the body the dying of Jesus’ and explains himself by saying that `while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh’ (2 Cor. 4:10-11). In another place he refers to `the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ for whose sake he has suffered the loss of everything, and tells how his consuming ambition is `that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death’ (Phil. 3:8, 10). As a Roman citizen, Paul was not liable to be crucified, but he knew by experience what it meant to `take up his cross daily’ and follow Jesus. Jesus’s words about the necessity of denying oneself if one wishes to be his disciple are to be understood in the same sense.” (F.F.. Bruce, Hard Sayings of Jesus, 150-152 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; IVP Academic)
Interestingly enough, listen to the next line of lyrics from the song mentioned above:
“As soon as Jesus turned his back
I’d found my way across the track
Lookin just to score another deal
With my back against that d____ eight ball
I didn’t have to think or talk or feel”
When the person felt that the cross did not point the way, he felt that Jesus had turned His back on him.
Perhaps the gentleman was taking about the moment on the cross where Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)?
The mystery of this text is is revealed in Psalm 22, which Jesus quoted on the cross. The psalmist certainly felt that God had forsaken him (Psalm 22:1), but had He really? The psalmist answers:
Psalm 22:24-For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.
Like Jesus, we must be willing to endure the cross in our lives. There will be times when we feel that the Lord has turned away from us, yet He has NOT.
The song, “The High Cost Of Living High,” contains some powerful and profound messages, especially in helping addicts realize that the high cost of living high is far greater than the high cost of living. And whether it means to or not, it reminds us that the way of the cross has always pointed the way (even when it is difficult to accept).
Christian, if you have stumbled (1 John 1:8), don’t give up.
Take up your cross, and follow Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.