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A Cross to Bear

December 8, 2014

cross to bearThe phrase “my cross to bear” is commonly used to describe a difficult situation in life. My husband is an angry man, but that’s just my cross to bear. My kids are a disappointment, but that’s just my cross to bear. I can’t seem to lose the weight, no matter what I try, but that’s just my cross to bear. I have cancer, that’s my cross. I struggle in social situations, that’s the cross I carry. Carrying the cross has become understood to mean dealing with a difficult, often prolonged circumstance in life.

The cross in Roman times was not a piece of jewelry. The cross was not a symbol of life’s difficulties. The cross was one thing and only one thing. The cross was an instrument of execution. It was the electric chair, the gas chamber, the firing squad or the gallows of its day. The cross was typically reserved for those whose crimes directly threatened the Roman empire. The common thief would not be crucified nor would many murderers. Crimes against the power of Rome were must often the ones which resulted in crucifixion.

When one was sentenced to death by crucifixion, he would be transported to the place where the crucifixion would occur. Crucifixions were usually outside towns or cities in high visibility or high traffic areas. In Jerusalem many crucifixions took place on a hill just outside the city walls and near one of the main roads into the city. As the prisoner was escorted to the crucifixion site, he would be forced to carry the horizontal bar of his cross. One seen carrying this crossbar, carrying his cross, was known to be a convicted criminal on his way to execution. The criminal carrying his cross was only going to one place, his death. The closest parallel today would be a man leaving his cell on death row to walk down the hall to the electric chair without any chance of a last minute pardon. Carrying the cross was not symbolic of official disfavor or part of the journey to prison. Carrying the cross always meant one thing. The one carrying the cross was a dead man. The matter was certain. In a matter of hours the criminal would be fastened to the cross and in a few days time, he would be dead.

When Jesus says to deny yourself and take up your cross He is most definitely not telling you to endure patiently through a difficult time in your life. He is telling you to count yourself a dead man. The cross is not a confession of being a Christian, the cross is a confession of death. Taking up the cross is living life like one already dead.

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