Mark 8:31-38 – “Deny yourself;” & “Take up your cross:” Quite possibly the most frightening words that Jesus spoke. What is the cross in this passage? It is quite literally a gruesome, tortured death at the hands of a legitimized mob meant to send a message of terror to all who see it. Who is it for? It’s for Jesus and all who would follow him.
Does our world still have crosses? Yes, but the reality is that crosses are designated by those who have power for those who are not in power. A clear example from American history is the extra-judicial lynching of Black Americans at the hand of white supremacists. The good news is that Jesus uses the reality of a death on a cross to show to those in power that it is truly the Victim who has the power in this situation. Put very simply, the victim can look the killer in the face with the truth that it should be the killer who is receiving death, rather than the victim. In this mysterious way, the cross means strength to the powerless and love for those who suffer because of the gospel of Jesus.
What can those of us who are not in line for suffering, or who are not in danger of a cross-like death do? We who are societally on the side of the powerful must acknowledge that Jesus was there in our place. In gratitude, we must live a life of kindness, love of the poor, hospitality and loving enemies. Thankfully, God walks with us all on this journey!