The Crucified Life

We reject the Cross because we want: a love without worship, an identity without humility, and a position without price.

The Crucified Life

The Christian life is one of taking up our cross and following Jesus (Matt.16:24; Mk.8:34; Lk.9:23). Fundamentally, it is here our obedience is mostly won or lost. All our sins and failures could be traced back to the negligence of this central call of our Lord concerning our lives as His disciples. Why is it that we find it so difficult to embrace the cross? In Mark chapters 8-10, the Lord Jesus spoke of His crucifixion three times and all three times, the apostles responded wrongly to the Lord. Studying these responses reveal three characteristic failures on our part also as to why we avoid the cross in our lives.

1.  We avoid the cross because we want A Love without Worship (Mk.8:34-38)

Here Jesus had just begun teaching them about how He must be crucified and rise again (v.31). However, Peter immediately took the Lord aside and even rebuked Him for saying such things about Himself. To which Jesus publicly rebuked Peter for being so mindful of the things of man and not the things of God (v.33). It is then that the Lord issues the call of the cross for His disciples also in vv.34-38. From the context thus it is clear that Jesus is responding to the flawed understanding of Peter in particular when He issued this call to take up the cross and follow Him. What was Peter’s error? Peter loved Jesus so much that He didn’t wish Jesus to suffer any rejection or far worse, a crucifixion. The problem with Peter then was that his love for Jesus was merely sentimental and not one overflowing from worship. When there is only a mere sentiment for Jesus, there cannot be any place for the cross. Mere human love always and only desires that the beloved be not harmed, protected from all suffering, and prosper in earthly ways. Pagans pray and seek such a life avoiding all suffering like evil. However, for Christ and His disciple, worshipping God means being willing to suffer in this sin-stained world. We find life not in gaining, but in losing it. Even though Mk.8:36-37 are often quoted in the context of evangelism, the text is clear as it is addressing disciples of Christ. The point of Jesus is that there is nothing worth gaining in this world at the cost of your soul, hence die to everything of this world and pursue Him. To count God alone as worthy over and against all the gains we could have of this world requires a heart that rightly perceives God as the only one worthy of all our worship. Unless we love Jesus out of such a heart of worship, we will avoid the cross. We might still sing His praises, attend church, feel emotional about the Lord’s goodness, do many ministries, but as long as we are not dying to our selves, we are seeking to love Jesus without worship.

2. We avoid the cross because we want An Identity without Humility (Mk.9:30-37)

As Jesus was passing through Galilee with His disciples, it says in Mark 9:30-31 that He again started teaching them about His impending suffering and death. However, it says, the disciples were not understanding it and also were afraid to ask Him (Mk.9:32). Rather, we are told that on the way to Capernaum, the disciples were interested in discussing the age-old question Christians still love to argue among themselves: Who is the greatest? (Mk.9:34). Here is the Lord saying He will soon suffer and die, and His apostles rather want to know who among them is actually the greatest! The response of our Lord is to teach them humility by means of reminding them what it means to be a child. In Mark 9:37, the Lord makes it clear that a child of God bears the name of the Lord and the Father who sent Him. In other words, the greatest identity we can have is already given to us freely in the gospel, the identity of being a child of God. We are already bearers of the greatest identity we could ever possess in life. Hence let us embrace humility and quit competing and gloating over others. The error of the disciples was that they wanted an identity without humility. Jesus’ response is that the greatest identity is one of humility, that of being a child of God. The call of the cross is to willingly embrace all earthly weakness, loss, shame, dishonor, and die to all our desire to build a name for ourselves by being content with our identity in Christ. Unless we joyfully confess our humble identity in Christ, our hearts are restless to build a name and to that degree, we will avoid the cross.

3. We avoid the cross because we want A Position without Price (Mk.10:32-45)

Finally, Jesus foretells His death a third time in Mark 10:33-34 to the Twelve. This time Mark lists the response of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Their request to the Lord was that in glory they will have the highest honour of sitting next to the Lord. The response of Jesus is telling. He does not immediately respond by saying whether He can or cannot grant such a request as He later reveals in Mark 10:40. But his first response is to ask them whether they can pay the price for such a great position. In. Mark 10:38, hence the Lord begins by pointing out that they do not know what they were asking. The Lord gets to sit in His throne because of the great humiliation He would undergo on the Cross. As apostle Paul says, it is because Christ humbled himself to the point of dying on the Cross that God, therefore, exalted Him highly as the God-man and gave Him the Name above all names (Phil.2:8-10). In the same way, Jesus points out that all His disciples also receive their crown only through the faithful bearing of the cross (Mk.10:38-39). Our flesh, however, wants positions without any price, stewardship without any sacrifice, authority without any anguish. Our ambitious love for comfort thus causes us to avoid the call of the cross.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that in all three cases, the issue is our heart. Taking up the cross is ultimately not an issue of the will or the mind, but of the heart. As these three passages indicate, do we love Jesus rightly, humbly, and sacrificially? Let us quietly meditate on our Lord - His love and His life - that our hearts would awaken to love Him well. Amen.