“So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.” (John 19:16-18)
We have just completed a survey of the theological meaning of the literal cross on which Jesus Christ was put to death in Judea nearly 2,000 years ago. However, what is the spiritual significance of the cross today for Jesus’ followers?
The phrase “bearing the cross” or “taking up one’s cross” became a necessary condition of discipleship by Jesus. Jesus taught this in five New Testament passages. The phrase is framed both negatively (“cannot be my disciple”) in both Matthew 10:38 and Luke 14:27 and positively (“if anyone would come after me”) in Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23.
The Tyndale Bible Dictionary (TBD) explains that, “Two major motifs are found in the sayings. The major motif comes from the imagery of a condemned man carrying his cross to an execution site; a necessary part of discipleship is a daily (Luke 9:23) willingness to sacrifice all and to suffer for the sake of Christ. The central point is not death but disgrace; the disciple must be ready to become an outcast from society.”
One of the most extended metaphors regarding the cross is by the Apostle Paul. It is found in Romans 6:1-8. The text says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”
2 Corinthians 5:14-17 says, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
The TBD also says, “The same view is found also in Galatians, which contrasts the mystical death of self to the legalistic system of the Judaizers. The believer is “crucified with Christ,” with the result that “it is no longer I who live” (Gal 2:20); “the flesh with its passions and desires” is “crucified” (5:24); and “far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (6:14). Believers must experience the cross before they can find the resurrection life.”
Puritan Matthew Henry says, “Come, and see the victories of the cross. Christ’s wounds are thy healings, His agonies thy repose, His conflicts thy conquests, His groans thy songs, His pains thine ease, His shame thy glory, His death thy life, His sufferings thy salvation.”
Author Jerry Bridges writes, “If we want proof of God’s love for us, then we must look first at the Cross where God offered up His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Calvary is the one objective, absolute, irrefutable proof of God’s love for us.”
Author A. W. Pink explains that, “Taking up my “cross” means a life voluntarily surrendered to God.”
May God’s truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!